Monthly Archives: April 2012

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My DIY Disaster: The Greenhouse from Hell

I’m a perfectionist— I like it when things go right and tend to stew about things that don’t go so well. Sometimes when undertaking a project I am so blinded by “the perfect vision” that I have in my head that I have a very hard time admitting that the vision just might not be achievable—- EVER. My greenhouse is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

Last year at the end of summer I didn’t want to say good-bye to my garden, but living in New England makes year-round outdoor cultivation very difficult. “A-HA!” I thought “I’ll build a greenhouse!” I thought this was the perfect idea— there were very inexpensive greenhouse kits available that were claiming to be “winter-ready.” I decided to go with a “lean-to” variety— one that props up against a wall of the house. This way it wouldn’t be permanently attached to my house so no building permits would be needed. Also, I performed some engineering calculations (remember I do that for a living) and discovered that I could heat the thing pretty inexpensively (provided that it was secure to the side of my house).

I found the model of greenhouse that I was to purchase on Amazon.com— my husband was already becoming very skeptical of my plan at this point. He asked “do people actually buy nice greenhouses on Amazon?” I ignored his incredulousness as I often do— “I’ll show him” I thought. All I could picture in my head were the many fabulous hours of winter gardening I would be enjoying in my greenhouse. And the many fabulous veggies and flowers we would have year-round at our disposal. Surely he would come around once he saw how awesome it was!

At some point I probably should have taken that step back like Todd was begging me to, but it was much too late. The perfect vision had been burned into my brain, and nothing less would substitute! I ordered the ill-fated Amazon greenhouse—- it came in no fewer than 500 pieces with instructions that made Ikea dressers look like the EASIEST ASSEMBLIES EVER! I cannot overstate how disappointed I was upon discovering that I would have to enlist Todd’s help in constructing the thing. But construct-away we did—- for the better part of 4 WEEKENDS!

After construction was complete I made a horrible discovery— the foundation of our house was crooked where I intended to put the greenhouse so it wouldn’t lean properly. Todd and I tried to build a make-shift foundation to support the greenhouse and level it out—- but this ended up being just more work invested in  a VERY BAD PROJECT. When we finally finished and placed the greenhouse, there was an unsealable gap of 4″ between my house and the top of the greenhouse—- something that my engineering calculations did not account for. This thing would not be possible to heat economically like I had hoped! Alas we decided to leave the greenhouse where it was for a little while.

A shoddy greenhouse foundation

A few weeks later Hurricane Irene came to visit. Todd and I, knowing that this thing was shoddily built (it was that big of a pain to put together that we had no confidence in its construction) decided to put the greenhouse in our garage for safe-keeping. It would stay here for the next 6 months— until today.

Victory!

Today I tried once again to find a nice home for the greenhouse— this time up against a fence in my driveway. But looking at it from different angles, it just still looked like crap. I couldn’t envision myself wanting to spend any sort of time in this thing— not to mention that it might fall apart upon a stiff breeze.  So I decided FINALLY to get rid of it. And once that decision was made, it was like a load had been lifted from my life. Finally I could see my perfect vision again— and it was one without a greenhouse in it!

Did I learn anything from my little greenhouse DIY disaster? Probably! When it comes to adding structural elements to my home, I will leave that to professionals from now on 🙂 And you should probably not buy things for $500 off amazon and think they will be easy to put together and well-designed.  Oh, and I should probably listen to that husband of mine a little more often (don’t tell him that though 🙂 ). Now on to my next project!!!

 

Book Review #8: The Fundamentals of Illustration

Probably 15 years ago I made a decision to pursue a major in engineering instead of art due to my desire to be “guaranteed a job” (which engineers pretty much were back then) ; not struggle in the world of freelance and ultimately end up hating my livelihood (a problem which sometimes befalls artists). I don’t regret making this decision, but there is always a part of me that wishes I had pursued the art thing a little more seriously and at least seen where it could go. I think this is what draws me to books like The Fundamentals of Illustration— a desire to learn about the the industry that I never studied formally, but always felt in tune with. So did I learn anything useful from this book? Indeed….. Let’s start from the beginning!

Anybody considering a career in illustration should probably read The Fundamentals of Illustration before even applying to art schools. Why? Because this book gives an excellent picture of what a day-in-the-life of a typical illustrator looks like. It also gives tips and advice on particular ways of working— from coming up with ideas, to handling difficult clients, to the logistics of getting paid. Most of those topics art schools would probably not touch on— but are important nonetheless for the professional illustrator. I think this book gave an excellent view of some of the benefits and pitfalls that can arise out of working in certain ways and styles. It also had very nice illustrative examples (go figure 🙂 ) that go with the text to tell the reader a complete story about the covered topics.

I picked up this book thinking it would be a shortcut to telling me information about the illustration industry— should I ever want to dabble there in the future. Should I have read The Fundamentals of Illustration for these purposes? Probably not! There’s just too much information that is only useful for people that are seriously making a career out of illustration—- not for dabblers. I found the book to be a little overwhelming—- I had no idea the world of illustration had so many different facets! I am glad I read the book though; if only to give me an appreciation for how much more I would need to be committed if I were to want to pursue that career path.

The The Fundamentals of Illustration actually taught me enough about the world of Illustration to know that it is more complicated than I could have imagined—- but more fascinating too. I highly recommend this book to anybody considering a professional career in illustration— and probably to anybody that is wondering what a professional career in illustration could look like as well (though it might be a tad overwhelming as it was for me).

Disclaimer: This review uses affiliate links, though I am not paid by anyone to write about this book— just in case you needed to know 😉 Photo credit: margaretkimball.com

 

 

The Creative Bucket List

This isn’t a creative “bucket list” per se, but rather a bucket list of creative things that I would like to master eventually. Every now and then I like to take inventory of what I want to accomplish and what I have already; here goes this update:

At the beginning of the year, I came up with a list that I wanted to accomplish. So far on that list I have done (and posted about) the following things:

-Photography Lessons
-Read a book per-week (I’m through 9 weeks at this pace)
Start to learn to code (I’m through the intro to Javascript, focusing a little more on HTML for now)
-Volunteer a little more
-Re-decorate my Workshop
-Obtain my Imac and Adobe CS5

So now we’re a little more than 4 months in and I think I’ve made some good progress. But of course there is so much more I want to do! Here’s my list for the foreseeable future:

-Design at least 50 items for the Notso Kitty Shop
-Backyard makeover
-Plan our vacation (we’re going to Iceland!)
-Learn to crochet (better)
-Learn to knit (I currently don’t do this at all)
-Take Adobe CS5 Training (this I actually began, but am only about ~1% done)
-Actually use the embroidery machine I bought for something
-Design my own wordpress theme/ overall blog makeover
-Developing other website pages
-Experiment with DIY letterpress
-Logo designs for the Notso Kitty Shop and other ventures
-Learning Japanese (this might be too ambitious

Source: etsy.com via Wendy on Pinterest

 

I am now realizing that in order to accomplish this list I might have to give up a thing or two ( like reality TV recap debates over on NYmag’s website or daily blog posts)— but I’m figuring out what the things are to give up as I go. And after this list is complete? Well, I probably will have another list in play by that point… but I’m okay with my life resembling a hamster wheel of creative learning. We’ll see how far I can get with it all before I need to regroup again— hopefully further than I could expect!

The Great Decor Compromise

I finally got around to spray-painting Jorge II today. Who’s Jorge II? Well perhaps I should tell you about the first Jorge before I get started in explaining the second!

“Jorge” was once a part of a Halloween costume that my husband donned in the early aughts— he went to a party as a “subway maintenance worker” complete with giant scary rat gnawing on his neck. Unlike most people who would have discarded or recycled such an item after it’s initial intended use, Todd decided to keep his rat as part of his apartment decor. Mind you this was before we began dating…..He eventually named him “Jorge” after the ex-Yankees catcher Jorge Posada (my husband is a rabid Red Sox fan).

Nothing says "welcoming" like bloody fangs

When I first laid eyes on Jorge I was horrified. The thing is just so ugly! Upon being left alone in a room with it I decided it needed a costume to make it less horrible– so Jorge’s first costume was made out of paper napkins to look like a cape and hat. Over the next few years Jorge would have many costumes— but he was never less horrible to me. When my husband and I first moved in together Jorge was the source of more than one battle— I just didn’t want it anywhere in my house! Finally we compromised and he was allowed to stay in the living room, but this wouldn’t be for long.

Imagine this in your living room before you judge me for losing my temper

After a few months of cohabiting, Jorge finally wore out his welcome with me. My husband and I had a stupid fight over something— and I completely lost my temper and ripped Jorge’s foam head off! I had endured enough of that thing!!!! After I finally calmed down though I felt bad for taking my anger out on poor Jorge. I resolved that I would try to find an amenable replacement someday.

A few months ago as I was perusing the CB2 catalog I found it! A chartreuse-colored wire sculpture that kinda looked like Jorge. I hate the color chartreuse though (for personal reasons) so it had to be painted. White is the color I chose so it could show up nicely in our dark blue rec room. Welcome home Jorge II!!!

 

Some More Blog Changes

Aye….. Another month, another blog change…. Well— at least nobody could ever say I never tried different things 🙂

I’ve been doing the post-a-day thing for a little over a month— I thought this was a way to keep me consistently creatively inspired. Unfortunately it has become somewhat of a chore….. and because of this I feel like it’s taking my energy away from other creative endeavors that I would actually be more inspired by. So no more daily posts!

From now on I will only be posting when I do something really awesome and want to share it…. or when I am really inspired by something and need to talk about it….. or whatever….. The point: It will be when I feel like it as opposed to when I think I’m supposed to.

I hope this will result in two things:

1) Better quality posts when I do decide to share
2) Restoring the affinity I once felt for this blog…. before it started stressing me out.

This is just one of my many creative outlets— and it shouldn’t stress me out. Sometimes I have to remind myself not to take things— even a blog devoted to goofy cat hats– too seriously…. Don’t worry– I promise there is more crazy or kitty inspired fun to come. Just not every damn day 🙂

 

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