Sunday, December 28, 2008

Moving Pictures

This is an video of art illustrating a song about art. It's just lovely. Magical, actually.

(Via Luca Has 2 Mommies)

I loved the video so much, I went to iTunes and bought the song.

Do You Know Your State's Motto?

Check out this awesome map, a composite of 50 linocuts, from artist Emily Wick (via Prêt à Voyager).

Emily says, on Anne's site:

Believe it or not, they are the official mottos. Each state only has one official motto (though occasionally a state will change it).

However, a state can have many slogans; they are typically used for advertising purposes, such as "Vacationland" or "The Sunshine State".

The mottos are often written in Latin on the flag and other official documents, so many people are not familiar with a motto even if they live in the state!

Thanks for visiting Two Eyeballs. Maryland's is definitely the most eyebrow-raising...

She offers shirts and other goodies with the individual states, as well, in her gift shop.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Accidental Deliciousness

I meant to make haystacks, which are very simple: melted butterscotch chips and chow mein noodles in clumps.

But I forgot that the recipe didn't include marshmallows, so I added marshmallows.

But then it was too sticky, and I realized my mistake.

And I do like marshmallows, but I don't like overly marshmallowy things (blame it on an overdose of rice krispy treats as a kid). So I decided to add chocolate chips to the marshmallow-butterscotch mix, to balance it out a bit.

Then I stirred in the chow mein noodles. And at some point, a half stick of butter.

The mess was too sticky to form spoonful cookies, so I pushed it all into a 9 x 13 baking pan and let it cool.

Oh-my-god good.

Sticky, but not too sticky, not too firm. Not too sweet, either. Just sweet enough to make them irresistible. Do you know what I mean?

Here's the recipe (I've unofficially named them earthworm cookies, because that's what they look like, but there's got to be a more appetizing name):

1/2 stick butter
1 bag marshmallows
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 bag chocolate chips
1 can chow mein noodles

Melt it all together, push into pan. Let cool. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

... Season's Greetings ...

... Wishing you all a perfectly magical Christmas ...

... full of joyful surprises ...

... and of course, merriness ...

... and a delightful New Year ...

... full of dreams come true ...

... and all the happiness in the world.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Retrospective, of Sorts

Thanks, Hugh, for summing it up so perfectly*:

So true. I am so sorry. I haven't forgotten this blog. How could I? Just, in the blizzard of pre-holiday activity, haven't had the large chunks of time to sit down and write a post that will add to the world in any meaningful way.

So I offer up little, Halloween-sized chunks of my life, for now, which all together, probably add up to more calories than it would be if I just gave you a candy bar.

* and for allowing me to share your cartoon on my own blog. Via GapingVoid, via TwitterFanWiki.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Save the Handmade World!

One of my treasured possessions is a handmade teddy bear that my aunt purchased at a craft fair for me while my Mom was still pregnant with me. Bear - I renamed him many times over the years, but always came back to Bear - isn't that handsome (he's the one in back), and he's really looking his age, which is like 95 in teddy bear years, but he's taken so much abuse over the years and survived. He knows all my secrets and has been there for me whenever I needed him. I actually left him at home when I went to college... and then brought him back down with me the very next time I went home, because I missed him so much.

But if the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act had been in effect back then, Bear and I probably would never have been given the chance to become the best of friends.

I think the only time I've ever written to a Congressman or Senator might have been in high school -- I'm not positive -- and a few weeks ago, when I wrote to request Inauguration tickets. But today I wrote to my Congressman, my Senator and my Senator-elect, and I ask you to please do the same thing.

In its crucial, admirable and necessary efforts to protect children from poisonous products, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act requiring manufacturers of items for children -- everything from toys to furniture to clothing -- to submit their products for extensive, and expensive, third party testing.

The unintended consequence is that thousands of independent American makers of handmade toys, baby blankets, clothing, and the like may very well be forced out of business, because the cost of the testing is so prohibitive. This legislation, which seems to be aimed at large companies importing items from countries like China,* does not take into consideration the sole proprietors and small businesses making safe, high-quality handcrafted items in workshops, cottages and studios across the United States, Canada and Europe.

My artwork is not targeted specifically at children, although parents do bring me a large portion of my business, but the effects could spread far and wide, as craft fairs and the online marketplaces that serve all craftspeople, such as Etsy and ArtFire, take a beating. If they, in turn, go out of business, even those people who do not make items for children may lose their main sales venues.

I don't think a single person is arguing against making sure products are safe for children - in fact I think most of these craftspeople are parents or grandparents themselves, or hope to be, like me, and are making these things because they love children - but if provisions are not made for small businesses and sole proprietors, the unintended consequences could be devastating to the handmade world.

I think it is a terrible shame that legislation that is intended to protect the health of children and babies should also throw another baby – small business owners and craftspeople – out with the bathwater, particularly at a time when our economy needs all the help it can get. At a time when people who are losing their jobs might turn to alternate methods of earning a living, the CPSIA will pull those opportunities right out from under them.

There must be solution: perhaps a way to make it possible for these small makers to document their materials to show they are not dangerous, or perhaps, as the Handmade Toy Alliance suggests, for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to offer free testing for small businesses.

I've sent letters to my Congressman, my Senator and my Senator-elect, and you can find out how to do the same thing, here: Senate and Congress. You can also find out more at the Handmade Toy Alliance, and find a sample letter here. You can also read an open letter written by Etsy, here, and find more information at this activist site.

Please, take a few minutes, and put in a good word for craftspeople. They need you.

* And I certainly don't want to imply that items from China or other countries, and items manufactured or imported by larger companies, are automatically dangerous to children, or that this won't affect large companies whose products are safe, as well. It's just that craftspeople and small businesses have much smaller safety nets, if they have any at all.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Interimaginational Institute's New Outpost

I am so delighted to announce the opening of the latest outpost of the Interimaginational Institute, at ArtFire, a new handmade marketplace.

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

If you head over there now, you'll find some of my favorite maps, plus my North Pole Map Christmas postcards (I am so, so excited and proud of these that you'd think I'd have all my Christmas cards sent out already, just to show them off, but no, I am lagging, as usual!).

If you are a seller of handmade items and are interested in setting up shop on Artfire, there's no better time to do it... first, you can get in early, and tell everyone that you knew Artfire when.

And second, if you sign up now, you can lock in a Verified membership at $7 a month for life (it's usually $20 a month). The great thing is, you don't have to sign up for a Verified membership, because a basic membership is free (That's right! Free! No listing fees and no commissions when an item sells), but Verified membership does offer perks like shop stats, which, naturally, I am checking 8,237 times a day, just for the novelty of it.

Either way, ArtFire is not just another Etsy. I love Etsy so much. Etsy has changed my life, in so many wonderful ways, and made it possible for me to even continue doing what I do.

ArtFire is still very new, with a lot of bugs. But it's obvious that they're working really hard to make it a nice place to find and to sell handmade items (and vintage, supplies and design services, too). And I think ArtFire has some features that make it a great complement to Etsy, a lovely place to bring even more people into the marvelous world of fantastical exploring...

Speaking of exploring, just head on over there and check it out. If you do sign up for the paid membership, tell 'em I sent you (by using this link: Register on, and you'll help me be on my way to a free lifetime Verified membership (for which I will be eternally grateful)... and then you can refer your way to a free lifetime membership too (the offer ends at the end of December).

Already, the ArtFire buzz is noticeable. I think it's going to catch on fi ... uh, sorry... I think it might just be the next big thing.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

My Own Personal Sing-Along

I made one of those obvious discoveries today, the ones that come with technological advances, that everyone else always seems to know from the get-go...

If I ever have trouble thinking of my favorite songs - and I do, because I like a lot of music, and I've had senior moments since I was a senior in high school, or maybe since I was a senior in pre-school - I can just click on my "Top 25 Most Played" list in iTunes.

And there's no hiding from the fact that these are, well, the songs I listen to the most, and the songs I know by heart.

The list seems pretty eclectic at first glance, and it makes me really happy (and not a little bit smug, to be totally honest) that it spans so many artists and genres, but actually, these songs fit together really well. The playlist flows quite nicely.

As far as favorites go, though, I would replace "Rich Woman" with "Fortune Teller," and "Spooky" by the Classics IV has been getting a lot of ear time lately, so you can consider it the honorary 26th member. Also, I'd add "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin, and "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, and about 25 more songs I don't listen to that often that are still my favorites. But this pretty much sums it up, for the time being:

  • LDN by Lily Allen
  • Iko Iko by Cyndi Lauper
  • Millionär by Die Prinzen
  • Tiny Dancer by Elton John
  • Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
  • Superstition by Stevie Wonder
  • Take Me to the River by Al Green
  • Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby by Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch
  • Desperation Song by Carbon Leaf
  • Long Black Veil by The Band
  • Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
  • Ballad of Cable Hogue by Calexico
  • How Many Times by Fairport Convention
  • La Mariquita by Correo Aereo
  • Bloodletting (The Vampire Song) by Concrete Blonde
  • Sloop John B by the Beach Boys
  • Tall Ships by Show of Hands
  • A Cloak of Elvenkind by Marcy Playground
  • Bird from the Mountain by Fairport Convention and Ric Sander
  • Rich Woman by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant
  • New Shoes by Paulo Nutini
  • Tóg É Go Bog É by Kíla
  • King of Elfland's Daughter by Phoenyx
  • The Perfect Crime by the Decemberists
  • Fidelity by Regina Spektor