Monday, January 29, 2007

Gardening Experiment, Year 2

Well, last year was my first year to try my hand at gardening. It was quite exciting for the first few weeks, then it turned into a miserable failure. My Grandma saved me mid-summer with beautiful potted plants that lasted me all the way to November.

I learned a few things from last year's experiment:
  1. Vegetables aren't good potted plants. They need tons more soil than a pot can provide.
  2. April is too late to plant things from seed.
  3. Pots should be filled to the top with soil, not a few inches down. The more soil, the better!
  4. Putting all the seeds from the packet into the soil doesn't guarantee success; it just means all the more seedlings you have to pull out, which turns out is hard for me to do
  5. Seedlings really DO have to be pulled out to let others get big and strong.
So, I have made a few adjustments to this year's plan.
  1. I bought seeds of the same flowers Grandma gave me mid-summer: zinnias and marigolds, plus a few other things (including my one "success"--peppers)
  2. I've already started them in little seedling pots indoors, and they'll be big enough to go outside after the first frost!
  3. When it's time, I'll fill the pots to the brim with soil
  4. I've only planted enough seedlings for my pots, and no more, except for a few that I can give to people who would like to have them for their own garden
  5. I will do my best to pull the weaker seedlings and save the stronger ones. It will be hard, but I will do it.
So here is what I have, a pallet of peat pots (what alliteration!) filled with:
  • Flowers: Marigolds, zinnias, baby's breath, and morning glories (for the front porch columns, hopefully)
  • Herbs: Basil, Chives, Cilantro
  • Vegetables: Jalapenos and Anaheim chilis
The crepe myrtles are still outside, and I think they're making it through the winter. The potato vines are also still in the soil, so I'm wondering if they'll make it, too. If not, I guess I'll go buy those when it's time to work outside.

I'm so excited! I realize Experiment #2 may prove just as miserable as #1, but I feel like I learned from last year, and I'll learn this year, too. I'm sure I'll give you updates!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Things I do to amuse myself

Yesterday I did not have a good day. It seemed like it took me forever to drive in to work. I honestly thought, "I've been driving so long, I must have passed it up altogether!" But no, it just felt long. Then, I got to work and realized that my lunch plans had been canceled, and I would be eating lunch by myself. "Fine," I thought. "I'll just catch up on blogs during lunch."

But no, my internet wasn't working. Apparently my floor's wireless internet decided not to let me play. So, unless I spent the entire day in my brother's office on another floor (where the wireless did work), I would have no internet. "Fine," I thought. "I've got the desktop computer that stays in my cubicle. I'll just use that for internet." But no, that computer decided to commit suicide before my very eyes. I've never seen it happen before, but there it was. Everything was lost, and it took the entire day just to restore the operating system. No internet there, either.

"Fine," I thought. "I'll just call Jon during lunch, and maybe he won't be busy, and we'll have a good conversation." But no. A misunderstanding led to a frustrating and much-abbreviated phonecall. So by the time I hung up, I decided I was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

So, instead of moving to Australia (click link above to understand), I decided to vent with some creativity. And it really did make me feel better. It wasted about 30 minutes, but I figure it was time well-wasted to get my attitude back where it should be.

Without the internet, I couldn't search through stock photography for the perfect photo for our next magazine ad. The theme for it would be, "Working with Texas Life is as easy as..." and my assignment was to find something that denoted "easy." I had decided on, "Working with Texas Life is a walk in the park." To really catch attention, I wanted the park walker to be something unique. Without the ability to search for photography, I decided to do what I haven't done in a long time--sketch the idea out.

Here is the setting:

And here are my different park inhabitants:

I cut each of them out, and placed them in the park. My favorite is the elephant. One, because it's the only one that really fits proportionally, and two, because I just like elephants.
Although the skipping penguin really makes me laugh, too.

The idea didn't go over so well with the rest of the team. They decided it was creative and funny, but not in the normal vein of Texas Life's ads. We decided on something more sedate, most likely, "Working with Texas Life is as easy as child's play" with a photo of children playing. No, it won't catch people's attention as much, but it won't be vastly different from the previous ads, either.

But that's okay. The therapeutic value of these drawings vastly outweighs my coworkers opinion of them. And my day turned out just fine.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Innovation #14

Situation: The cars ahead of you on the road are kicking up lots of dirty water, which is instantly drying on your car windshield, obscuring your view.

Problem: Your windshield wiper fluid seems to be frozen, or empty, or something. At any rate, it's not coming out to clean your windshield.

Solution: Get behind the vehicle kicking up the most water (in my case, a semi), and use that water to clean your windshield. Yeah, it's still dirty, but it's enough liquid for your wipers to work with to get the rest of the dirt off.

I know. I'm a genius.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Texas Winter Innovation

*Well, I'm making a habit of writing time-specific posts and not posting them. Here is a post I wrote yesterday in regards to the crazy weather.

Today was a snow day! The office was closed, so I had a day off, and Jon's work is also closed this evening! What a great day!

I was especially excited because I had a new recipe I was going to try today, and it was perfect for such a cold day. I invited my neighbor over for lunch, then busied myself with preparations. I put in Garlic and Herb bread into our bread machine (yummy!) and then proceeded to cut the items necessary for my new recipe: Golden Potato Soup. Then I realized I had no potatoes.

Well, that would not do. I needed potatoes. I had forgotten I told Jon to throw out the ones we had before we left for our trip. They were getting a little questionable, and who knows how they would have fared over our week away. However, I had forgotten all that, and in my mind, there were six perfect potatoes in the fridge. In reality, there were none.

Jon, my knight in shining armor, volunteered to brave the roads to Kroger. Elated, I set out to ready the car for his mission. I opened the house door, and was met with a sea of snow. Hm...I've never needed a snow shovel before, but it sure would be handy.

*light bulb!*

Ah ha! I could use a cutting board! I have several flexible cutting boards from IKEA. I use two for food, and two are for craft projects. I grabbed one from my craft pile, snatched my hat from my closet, pulled on my mittens, and was ready to go...still in my pyjamas and robe, but quite toasty warm.

So there I was, bent over at the waist, scooping a path out of the snow from our door to the car door, and to my neighbor's house, since she would need to walk over for lunch. Then I scooped all the snow off the car, which was pretty exciting. That was a lot of snow. And it turns out my car doesn't look very white next to snow. More of a grey. Kinda sad, really.

With that accomplished (quite quickly, I might add), I dropped my hat, mittens, and house shoes, all now quite soaked with melting snow, into the washing machine and proceeded to get ready for the day. By the time I was done, Jon was back with my potatoes! On with the soup-making!

My friend, Teresa, recently posted about My recipe today is from there. One of the greatest things about the site is all the reviews. If you're ever interested in a certain recipe, be sure and read the reviews. Because of them, I adjusted the original soup recipe to use 1/2 and 1/2, and chicken broth, as many others had done. I also didn't use any meat, when it calls for ham.

Teresa's blog also brought up a conversation of protecting recipe cards. Some people use page protectors, some have special recipe holders with guards on them. I use a clothes pin. I simply take my recipe page and pin it up to my cabinet. It's at eye-level, well above all the action, and easy to read. Anyway, it works if you don't have protectors handy, and you're more of a spontaneous, not-so-organized person like me. (If you look closely at the picture, you'll get my mom's recipe for roast!)

Anyway, the soup recipe turned out great. I would highly recommend it. I doubled the recipe, and I'm glad I did. Now we have leftovers for tonight! It took about an hour to prepare and cook (not counting the trip to Kroger), and was very simple. Paired with the herb bread, lunch was excellent.

Then Holly and I spent the rest of the afternoon playing Phase 10. What a great game.

All in all, a wonderful snow day! The sun's going down now, and it's starting to get really chilly again. We'll see what tomorrow brings us!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Creative Resolutions

*Note: I wrote this on January 2nd, but completely forgot about it. I don't know why I didn't just post it...maybe I had something very deep and meaningful to add to it? Couldn't tell ya. So, here it is now.

I am trying to avoid resolutions this year, because I usually forget them after the first week. Not because I decide not to follow them; I really forget them. And writing it down doesn't help if you never go back and look at it. I suppose I could write them all on my bathroom mirror, but...nah...

However, there is a list of good resolutions from It's geared toward freelancing graphic designers, but you can all read them and adjust them to your situation. Here's their list.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


We made it back! Jon and I had a great time on our cruise. The first evening and day was a little questionable. One, because people were trying to see how drunk they could get, and that wasn't very fun for us sober ones. And two, because the water was pretty rough, and we were realizing a little what it must feel like to be drunk; we could not walk in a straight line for the life of us.

However, after that, I think most people with hangovers swore off alcohol for the rest of their lives...or at least until the free wine tasting the next night...and we got more used to the rocking of the ship. We enjoyed reading on the beach and on the boat. I went through two books (reviews in posts to come). We also met some neat people and relaxed as much as we could. Our motto wasn't to do everything we could, but just to do what we wanted, and no more. So we never made it to a smoky disco to dance into the wee hours of the morning, and we never made it to a single midnight buffet (though we were awake for most of them). We enjoyed working out (thought it's hard to keep one's balance in a rocky boat) and roaming the ship.

We took the stairs everywhere we went, not counting the night I was wearing heels, and when we were carrying luggage off the boat. Taking the stairs averaged about 120 stairs from our deck to wherever we wanted to go, and then 120 stairs back down. Needless to say, I don't feel bad about my daily ice cream cone. :)

We've come home rested and relaxed. Jon is ready for classes, and I'm ready to face whatever challenge my work has for me next.

The odd thing I had not expected: We now feel the rocking of the ship back home. We're pretty off-balance, kind of like after you've taken roller skates off, and you still want to slide across the floor. We still want to compensate for the rolling of the ship, I guess. I wonder if Dramamine would help.... :)

Click the photo below for our trip pictures!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More new things

Today I'm working on something I've never done before. I'm designing a booth and accompanying banners for my company. Up until now, the largest thing I've designed for work has been an 11x17 poster. The booth is 10ft wide, and about 7ft tall. The banners are 3ftx8ft. This has been a challenge, to say the least, for several reasons.

My first challenge is that I'm very used to InDesign, and these should be set up in Photoshop. I actually set them up first in InDesign, because I couldn't figure it out in Pshop. My mind just wouldn't switch over to the different program. However, the printer wants it in a Pshop file, so I've spent the entire day re-setting it up in Pshop. Yet, somehow I still think I saved time by doing it in InDesign first.

I've also done more math than I've done in a long time. First, the file in ID was 1"=1' to keep the file from being huge. And because I figured I would have to redo it, I wanted a small file that would be easy to work with. In Photoshop, I'm setting the file at half the size it needs to be, with twice the resolution. That way, the file is smaller (at least relative to the full size), and all the printer has to do is blow it up times two, and it's the right size at the right resolution. So, the dilemma is that I have to convert my ID measurements to actual size (1"=1'), then divide by two (1'=1/2'), then convert to inches, because Pshop doesn't deal in feet (1/2'=6"). That works fine when dealing with a simple measurement like 1 inch, but when it's 3.125 inches, it gets difficult and my eyes start to cross. I was an Art Major, people!

My final challenge is trying to visualize it at full size. Will the logo look too large at 2ft wide? I've never seen it 2ft wide. Will the people pictures be overwhelming as large as they are? How large are they in relation to real people? Is this a design that people will want to look at? This challenge is the hardest, because I won't know for sure until it's done, and that's a mighty big risk (because it's a mighty big check to pay for it). But there's no other way. I've actually tried, by cutting the banners out and holding them up in front of doors or other things to give me the illusion of the right size. And it looked okay, but I'm not sure if that really gives me an accurate picture.

So, this new assignment has been quite a challenge, but I'm almost finished, and nothing's blown up, yet. Here's a picture of what it looked like last week. It's changed quite a bit since then, but I had to mock it up to show my boss. It took way too long for me to do it again, unless I have to. If I have to, I'll post the latest version some other time. :)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New things in the new year

It's a new year, time to reflect on the previous year, and look to the next.

In the past year, I've made new friends, accomplished things at work I've never done before, gotten into a fairly regular excercise routine, came out pretty even as far as weight gain/loss, grown my hair out, waxed my eyebrows for the first time, bought a coffee maker, and put Christmas lights up on the house. What accomplishments! :) Haha! You know I'm easily entertained when you read THAT list!

To start the new year off, Jon and I are going to do something we haven't done since our honeymoon (four years ago); we're going to go on a vacation all by ourselves! In one week, we'll be headed to the coast for a cruise! Can you believe it?? I'm pretty proud of us, because it's not like us to do that.

Jon's still skeptical about the cruise life. Our conversation went like this:

Jon: So, do we just sit on the ship?
Me: Oh, no! There's tons of stuff to do! There's times to dress up, go dancing, watch Vegas-like shows, play games, and when the boat gets to a port, we get off and shop for souvenirs!
Jon: . . .
Me: Oh, you don't like any of that, do you.... Well, I plan to sit on the deck and read the whole time.
Jon: Now that, I can do. :)

So that's where we'll be next week: on the deck of a big big boat, in the middle of the big big ocean, reading and relaxing. It's going to be great.

Jon's already stocked up on Shelby Foot's three volume account of the Civil War, so he's good to go. Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to take. Anyone have suggestions for good books? Has anyone read anything by Francine Rivers? She was recommended to me, but I haven't gone to the library, yet. Any other suggestions would be appreciated!