Saturday, December 23, 2006

Magic and Delight

A few years ago, my dad, grandmother and I took an incredible trip to Germany (where we visited the tiny village where my grandmother's grandmother was born in the 1860s). We saw many memorable things, one of which was a magical little shop around the corner from a cathedral in Freiburg (itself a magical little town, but watch out for those canals). If the book The Merchant of Marvels and the Peddler of Dreams were a brick-and-mortar store, this would be it.

In that store, we found this book, which my Dad bought for me as a remembrance of our trip. It has four beautiful pop-up scenes, two of which are Christmas related, and all of which are awe-inspiring.

Christmas evening

the nativity

That same magic is available in heaps at the website of Marilyn Scott-Waters, The Toymaker, which reminds me so much of that store in Freiburg. It's overflowing with beautiful paper toys and goodies you can print at home and make yourself -- they're amazing, and they're free, and I get very excited, like a little girl in a magical shop, when I browse through them.

I've been going to her site for years... but I only just this week printed and made any of her creations (forgive the poor quality of my photos but I have a limited amount of time to play on the computer today):

I made paper stars, which don't have her amazing illustrations on them but are still very cool:

and an elf ball, which is just waiting to go on the tree that we bought this afternoon (which is waiting until the battery for the saw charges so we can trim it and bring it inside):

Go and look at her site -- she has incredible things to offer, toys and other sweet items for the whole year long. You won't be disappointed. She also has a blog.

Before we got our tree, Al and I also went ice-skating today, which was quite exciting (I had only been once before, about 18 years ago) and, for some reason, much easier once I started to pretend I was on skis. I guess I reminded my body that it does actually know how to keep itself upright most of the time while moving at fast speeds across slippery frozen substances. It turned out to be really fun!

Then we came home, and I made a wreath from scratch:

I am tickled to death with myself. It might not be perfect, but I love it still. Then I nearly killed the cat by throwing the door open to grab the neighbor's fudge because they pulled up as I was hanging the wreath. He was right behind it, and there was a loud crash as he flew across the room. (Actually, I don't think I hit him that hard, and he seems to be all right, but he still tore across the room so fast he blurred.)

And that's the pre-Christmas news from the Whittington home. I don't think I'll be on the computer much, if at all, in the next two days, so please have a wonderful and delightful and very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Our Little Mountain

I was worried that I was too far behind on Christmas preparations, but we pulled through and got...

...the packages mailed out (my husband is 6'2")...

... Christmas cards printed and assembled, and mostly mailed...

... and fudge made (recipe lifted from Angry Chicken, and I'm much obliged), although still not put into the little tins I got...

... and I bought all of his presents in 3 1/2 hours yesterday, from leaving to coming home, even with mad Virginia-holiday traffic and trips to five different locations...

... not bad for last-minute preparations. And we're talking about getting a tree tonight.

My Books of Scraps

Back in October, I mentioned scrapbooks I kept while I lived in Germany and Prague as an exchange student. They were not exactly works of art, and they are already falling apart because I had none of the special scrapbooking materials used so widely today, but I will always treasure them.

Here are some of the pictures from my Germany scrapbook. I lived in the former East Germany from July 1991 to July 1992, arriving just nine months after the reunification.

When I went to Germany in 1991 with the Congress-Bundestag program (I applied because there was no language requirement and most exchange programs had them), I was one of the few exchange students who didn't receive any information -- name, location, etc. -- about my host family. I just went where the program leaders pointed me, which in this case, was onto a bus. The bus then drove east for a long, long time. When we passed the dirty gray "Kontrolstelle," formerly the border between West and East Germany, I realized my year was going to be very different from what I had expected.

My host family picked me up at the bus station -- they knew my name -- with a bouquet of flowers and a tiny red two-door Ford Fiesta. There were four of us in that tiny car with my gigantic, heavy, American-teenage-girl-traveling-for-a-year-sized suitcase, and I was absolutely terrified. They didn't speak any English, and I couldn't speak any German beyond "Guten Tag" and "eins, zwei, drei." Maybe I imagined it, but I thought they gave me a lot of strange looks that day.

There were eight of us in town for a four-week language program. I was one of the three who stayed in that city after the program was over, and I almost never saw the other two after that. I didn't stay because I liked East Germany all that much (actually, at first, I hated it, and I really just wanted to go to some nice little Black Forest mountain village like I had imagined, not this dirty place where years of pollution had killed all the trees), but because my host brother asked me very sweetly in halting English if I wanted to stay with them all year, while my host mother smiled at me, and I didn't know how to say NO. So I stayed, sure that I was making the worst decision ever, and ruining my whole year.

In fact, it was the best decision I could have made. No better way to learn a language than to be in a city of 50,000 in which about 5 residents speak your own language. You have no choice, if you want to talk to anyone.

And no better way to truly become part of a family and a culture than to be far from everything familiar. Well, not everything: my host mother faithfully bought me corn flakes to eat every morning. But you know what breakfast I liked best? Rolls with cheese, jam, or Nutella. I couldn't stop eating them. No wonder I gained 30 pounds in just a few months.

Even though I played federball with my host brother and sister almost every day (at least at first). I was amazed -- I'd heard of badminton, but I'd never actually known anyone who played it. I wish I did now because there's something quite satisfying about that thwack.

Once I stopped wishing I was somewhere else, I truly started to appreciate where I was. I still get homesick.

And I made friends -- rather a few wonderful girls picked me as their friend -- which also amazed me, because I was not only terrified, speechless and extremely shy, but socially awkward, even in America. And they took me everywhere with them, including the theater over and over and over. It was even better once I started to understand what was being said.

I still can't say exactly what made me decided to apply to go spend a year in a country where I didn't speak the language, at 16 years old, other than a wish to travel that I'd had since I was very very small, and a desire to get out and see the world. But I am so glad I did. My mom didn't want me to go, but she said I could, and I will always be grateful. A full post on all the things I learned, the ways in which I grew, the benefits I gained and the love I came to feel for my host family, my host city and my host country would fill a book. I wish I could send every American high school student overseas for a year. If you know anyone who's thinking about it -- student or adult -- encourage them to go even if you think it's crazy. I can't recommend it highly enough. If anything ever leads to world peace, it will be people who go out and live elsewhere and share their own cultures while learning to appreciate those of others.

A final, surprise benefit I got from my time in Germany: my host family took me to Czechoslovakia (it was still Czechoslovakia at the time) for a trip, and while I was in Prague, I stood on the Charles Bridge and said to myself, "Someday I will live in this city."

Four years later, I walked across the USC campus, and glanced up sign on a telephone pole that said, "Live in Prague." And I said, "Oh, yeah, I forgot, I'm going to do that." So I detoured to the Overseas Studies office and one thing led to another, and I ended up living in Prague, where I had all sorts of further adventures, including a few memorable glasses of the archbishop's wine, and learned how to speak enough Czech to get a fair rate on a cab ride.

That scrapbook next time.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Auctions and Comments

For those who followed the story of the Kim family (story here and here), you can help by bidding on items at a benefit auction of art and craft items here.

For those who have tried posting comments on my blog(s) and haven't been able to, thank you for letting me know. I don't know what the issue is, but I am trying to find out more. For those who have accounts on the older version of Blogger, I found this:

Logging in with an old Blogger account to post a comment on the new Blogger is giving a “please try again later” error. Until we fix this, it may work to log in first at, and then go to the comments page on the new version of Blogger in beta. — latest update on Thursday, December 14, 2006

but I know that others with Typepad have also had problems and I haven't been able to find anything about that. I apologize. In the meantime, anyone who wants to reach me via email can do so at radiogirldesign (at) gmail (dot) com.

Another thing on the pre-holiday To Do list

This spiky star is so cool, I can't believe that it's actually make-at-homeable, but you can bet I'll be trying it. Perhaps many, on a smaller scale.

(Found through Paper Forest)

On my way to an appointment and waylaid by the computer. As usual.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Should I laugh or cry?

In all the hustle and bustle, and my enjoyment of other people's pre-Christmas posts, I actually forgot about buying gifts, making gifts, designing cards, sending cards and all that. And now? Only 13 days left.

Whooops. Off I go, a-shopping away. And then tonight? Cutting and pasting with scissors and glue. And tomorrow? Making fudge, maybe.

How Embarrassing

I mistyped my blog address in my email signature, switching the "s" and the "p" in "blogspot" and have inadvertently been sending countless people to a Mega Bible Studies site that seems to exist solely for people who mistype "blogspot."

My apologies for the inconvenience, and my kudos and gratitude to anyone who found there way here in spite of that. I've fixed it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fun with Photos

My oh my, it felt good to get back to work yesterday. I played and played and played... uh, I mean worked and worked and worked.... and by the end of the day added a few new products to the Radiogirl Designs shop on Cafe Press.

I also redesigned the storefront, and divided the products by type instead of design, and I am very pleased. Now you can browse through The Paper Shop (with journals and cards), The Housewares Shop (clocks and coffee mugs, etc.), The Wearables Shop (including the "metalmouth" t-shirt my mom requested when she got her new braces), The Holiday Magic Shop (lots of Christmas goodies), and The Gift Shop (with cool aprons for cooks, bags for students, and magnets for the perfect stocking stuffers). Let me know what you think!

In the meantime, here's a glimpse of the new products:

The photo on these clocks actually features one of the Gerbera daisies from a little bouquet my mother brought me in the week before our wedding. They are my absolute favorite flower, and were the star flower of our wedding (on the invitations, the programs, the CDs, and in every bouquet). I am so excited about the way the different colors on these designs came out -- so bright and cheerful (I had planned on hanging one of the star clocks on my wall, but now I think I might pick one of these instead).

And I took this barn shot on the cover of this journal on the property of my aunt and uncle in the California desert. Of all the photographs I have ever taken, this is one of my favorites.

There will be more to come today, and all week long, so keep checking back! I can't wait to hear what you think!


Not here in Virginia, but here. Make your own! Go on, it's great fun! As good as the kaleidoscope! And for a good cause...

(via Tongue in Cheek)

Weaving Our Home Back Together

You know how you never really notice how things were until they've changed?

I had no idea exactly how far-reaching the chaos caused by our renovations stretched. But we do live in a small house and removing all the furniture from one room meant the rest of the house had to be almost entirely rearranged. Not only that, but the armoire that I had been using as an art supply cabinet is taking back its place as a "china/tablecloth" cabinet in the dining room (only I would use a china cabinet in an office, an armoire in a dining room and a dresser in the living room. Although the last one is just temporary.).

Now we are slowly putting the house back together. And what surprises me the most is how good this makes me feel. Just to be able to put the placemats in one place, and the tablecloths in that same place... that's serenity. I feel so much calmer already. And I didn't even realize how un-calm I really was.

It will take us a week or so to get it all back, but I'll post a few "corners of my home" pictures then.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Up and About

Being couch-bound has its advantages, and although it took me a while last week to accept that I had to just sit down and let myself convalesce, once I did, the week actually became pretty pleasant. I wrapped myself up in blankets, drank a lot of hot tea, hot chocolate and instant vanilla lattes, and drew.

I worked on cross-hatching, practicing what I learned in the drawing class Al and I took recently. The class, which was based on this book, brought together many of the ideas I had been exposed to in previous art classes, but this time everything sort of clicked. I learned to see differently. I learned how to put myself in a right-brain frame of mind. I learned how to draw what I see and not what I think I see. And as a result, I think that my drawings are fundamentally better; now it's a matter of putting in the hours to get my skills where I want them. And a lot of patience. Which I was forced to have this past week.

Now I am up and about, for the most part. Not yet at a hundred percent, but a lot better and glad for it. So I'll be working on getting some new designs up in the Cafe Press shop this week, I hope in time for last-minute Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

One thing down...

I was hoping to catch up on some work this week, but the bronchitis is back and has bowled me over (how's that for alliteration?), so it's back to sleep it off for me. However, I did finish one commission this week for 40 Christmas cards, and I am quite pleased with them.

Up on the clothesline to dry:

I carved myself a new logo stamp (I like the irregular woodblock feel):

And added some aqua trim:

Tied them up, nice and pretty with the only ribbon I could find (my huge bag of ribbons has gone missing in the move back into the office. How this is possible, I do not know. Our house is not big):

Fortunately, I had some raffia too:

And there you have it. I'll be taking the package to the post office this afternoon. I am very pleased with that tag -- it was a spur-of-the-moment creation and I like it so much I am going to use the same design for new business cards.

I hope that I'll be able to get fully back into the swing of things by the end of this week. I'm itching to get back to work and I have two more commissions waiting in the wings (the commissioners of which have been very patient, and I thank them profusely).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Carolyn's post on teapots prompted me to take this picture of the two teapots my grandmother gave me a few years ago, sort of off-handedly, out of her own collection. They're sort of an odd couple, wouldn't you say? But especially precious to me now, since Nana died in June.

I pulled them off their crowded shelf to take this picture, and promptly discovered that the blue and white one is filled with Hershey's kisses and a few Lindt Lindor Truffles, the discovery of which made me feel wonderful. Now, I happen to know that Al gave me that chocolate for Christmas last year, but I don't think it could be bad, do you? I might have to try it and find out.

Does chocolate go bad? Hmmm. Usually I can and will eat anything, but in my weakened state (can you hear Ferris Bueller right now?), I don't know if it is such a good idea. If it made me sick, well, do you think chocolate-induced illnesses are covered by health insurance?

What a debate to be having with myself, when really, I should be making some dinner.

Blechitis, with Bright Spots

So I am under the weather again and have spent the whole day in bed, pretty much, albeit surrounded by magazines and paste and scissors and the cat, who has not let me out of his sight all day (It's both flattering and unnerving. The way he stares at me, I sometimes feel that if we were in the wild and he were the size of some of his cousins, he would be wondering if I would make a good dinner).

Claire of Loobylu's post on her "inspiration books" reminded me of our own house book, which we've kept since we moved in here and I thought it would help us bring together our wildly different decorating tastes. I say "we," because even though Al rarely cuts anything out of magazines, he does sketch furniture ideas in here.

The House Book

Claire's post also reminded me of a cut-and-paste book I once kept in which I pasted pictures of clothing I liked (keeping this book definitely helped me develop the little bit of personal style I have, but I threw it out in an (un)inspired desire to "clear out my life" during my move East six years ago and have regretted that ever since).

So I was inspired this week to buy some cheap spiral bound scrapbooks and start some new cut-and-paste books:

A new Fashion Book

A General Inspiration book

Ranging from the pretty...

to the fun and quirky...

A Recipe book
so I can finally sort through all the recipes in the Cooking Light subscription my mom gave us and put the ones that intrigue me together, which I think will make me more likely to try them out than if I have to hunt them down in a magazine. Do you have any idea how many magazines we have in this house? It's quite a high number. The problem is, I subscribe to magazines that I love so much I don't want to throw any issues away. But I think these books will help with at least a few of the accumulated publications around here.

Working on these has been very pleasant and therapeutic and made even today a much better one.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The studio...

is pretty much done. At least, I'm back in it.

You can see pictures of the renovation process from beginning to end here.

It's beautiful. I'm very proud of it.

Guess WHAT??!!

I'm back in the studio. WHEW.


Okay, so there are still a few last details left unfinished. Like outlet covers. But I could. not. wait. another. day. So we moved all the furniture back in, and I am happily ensconced in a room that is visually much warmer and more inviting that I could have dreamed when we began the project, even without outlet covers (and curtain rods). All I really thought we were going to do was raise the foundation and get rid of that nasty paneling. Instead, we created something very special.

Many thanks to the people who helped us along the way, to family and friends who have been so understanding and forgiving while my brain has been dust-clogged, and to all of you have been so encouraging and interested in the goings-on. You all made it much easier and more pleasant to endure.

And of course, a very big thank you to my husband, Al, who, after all, raised a house all by himself.

Finally, a special shout-out to Gus the Cat, who was shut up in various rooms in the house throughout the process, and still manages to purr when I pick him up.


This was my office/studio on Friday, October 13:

(Should have turned the light on for this one. Sorry.)

With the furniture in, it looks exactly the same on camera, but it actually doesn't in person-- this camera with its overbearing flash does not do this room justice -- but Al and I have been discussing getting new furniture, anyway, perhaps a corner ensemble that will work as both computer desk and painting table to go in this corner.

In the meantime, I tried different arrangements to see if I could keep the cat off the painting table on his way to look out the windows, but to no avail. The furniture just wouldn't fit any other way (the room is only 9 feet by 9 feet). So I gave in.

And here's my new storage cabinet where I wanted to put it originally. It is covered in the sheet music for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and I was careful that the very first page in the upper left corner be the beginning of "Ode to Joy," because I think every piece of furniture should bring a little joy:

And where it ended up, across the room (all nine feet of it):

I will post more detailed pictures and different angles, along with before shots of the cabinet, which are worth seeing, in a separate post soon.