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Whats making me happy this week 04.05.13: boy shorts, dad guitars, and fluorescent adolescence

photos:
1. old dogs, as good as they get
2. cowboy songs
3. singer, from tom huffey’s “mirror” series

I sure would like to know what’s making you happy this week!

In the meantime, here’s what’s making me happy this week:

1. Mani/pedi AND I used a LivingSocial coupon. Happy!

2. NPRs Story Corps podcast. If you ever need your faith in humanity restored, listen. They are short, too short, but I am so moved by these I cry at…every…single…story. Does that make me happy? Yes, it does.

3. Body by Gap boy short undies that came in the mail this week. Yes indeed, new pretty underwear makes me happy! TMI? I know it makes other women happy. Does new underwear ever make men happy?

4. Cowboy songs by the Cactus Blossoms. I volunteered at the Ark this week and had no idea who the performers were. These fresh-faced brothers were the warm-up band. They had me at the first few notes of their sweet cowboy harmonies.

5. Not sure if Tom Hussey’s “Mirror” series makes me happy, but they make me something…introspective? This is how I see myself when I look in the mirror, so much younger than what the world sees. In my mirror, I’m still wearing braces.

6. My son reminded me of the Dad guitar scene from Flight of the Conchords. If you haven’t seen Flight of the Conchords, you will likely not find this funny…But you should get the FotC DVDs…really.

7. I’m finally reading George Saunders. Not “Tenth of December,” according to the New York Times, “the best book you’ll read this year” -which I think was last year. Instead I’m reading “Civilwarland in Bad Decline,” as recommended by Glen Weldon from Pop Culture Happy Hour. I’m happy that I am finally reading the celebrated Saunders. My name finally came up on the library wait list. Is the book making me happy? No. I do get why Saunders is so fêted, but his satire is so close to the edge in my mind, that to me, the stories are equal parts funny, smart and terrifying.

8. I watched Skyfall and Casino Royale with my boy (and wrote about it).

9. My boy and spouse are spending the week in DC and are having a great time! I’m smiling right now just thinking about it. And very soon I will be hitting the road to visit my dear daughter for the weekend, also making happy!

10. The Humans of New York FB feed always makes me happy, but it’s this poem by a student, Fluorescent Adolescence, I found on HONY this week that I thought was pretty fantastic. I wish I had the author’s name.
Sometimes youth is not wasted on the young.

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What’s making me happy this week 03.30.13: photos, a pickpocket, and sarcastic waitresses

photos:
1. happy card from my daughter
2. minestrone soup
3. Owen Was Here facebook page: Beautiful Detroit

Here’s what’s making me happy this week:

1. A homemade card from my daughter. I love that girl.

2. Minestrone soup. So easy to make and so delicious topped with parmesean and fresh basil. I’m not sure what the definition of superfood is, but I think this might be this.

3. My community college photography class. I will be sorry when it ends, even though I’m pretty sure I’m the worst in the class.

4. …speaking of photography, the Owen was Here facebook page is making me happy. Daily, beautiful, photos of Detroit and Detroiters– refreshing to see Detroit featured in something other than “ruin porn.”

5. Dinner at my friend Suzanne’s house made by her spouse who loves to cook. Beef bourguignon (yes, I did have to look up the correct spelling for that one)– Tres magnifique! As was the company.

6. I’m not sure that I can say Apollo Robbins is making me happy …but he sure is intriguing! I first heard him on NPR’s Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! But he was recently featured in the New Yorker, which I read after hearing him on WWDTM. He is a Las Vegas performer who goes by the subtitle: Gentleman Thief. He is a pickpocket who robs people on stage, even though they know that is exactly what he is going to do. He takes their wallets, scarves, keys, watches, cell phones…and he explains in many videos how he does it.

7. Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me…that show always makes me laugh.

8. Getting warmer and sunny here finally! Snow is GONE.

9. …speaking of sun…Ritchie Haven’s version of Here Comes the Sun is making me happy. (The intro is long, stick with it!)

And I say, it’s alright.

10. breakroomstories.com (where restaurant workers post the good, the bad and the ugly stories and photo from the field…) Some of it is raunchy, but a lot of it is very funny.
Be sure to look at the “tip jar” photos.
Sample Post:
Me: “Hi, I’m Megan, I’ll be your waitress tonight.”
Customer: “Well, hi, I’m Joe and I’ll be your customer for tonight”
Oh, the laughs that were had. ._.
-Megan

I love Megan!

Diy: block printing for blockheads

Linoleum block printing
image

photos:
1. starting to carve: image, block, lino cutter, tips and BAND-AIDS!
2. final print
3. amazing prints by others who printed with me (not art students, just crazy artistic, and many didn’t even know it!)

Genius or blockhead, linoleum block printing is for you. I promise, if I can do it, so can you! It will make you feel creative and awesome. And once you invest in the basic supplies (about $30), it is pretty cheap to do over and over again.

My print, picture above, is an Eames Zenith chair, in case you’re wondering. My son had no idea what it was. (Aw shucks.) But I really like the way it turned out.

I’ll post the basic how-to here, but there are many great youtube videos that will teach this, so watch a few of those for clarification.

I ordered supplies from dickblick.com, but I hope you can find them locally.

You will need:
• a block (we used 4”x6” for this, but they come in different sizes)

I have used EZ cut blocks, which are really easy to cut, hence the name. And I have used traditional linoleum, which is much harder, more time consuming to cut, but I feel like you can do much more detailed work on the traditional block—plus you get a nice artifact to set on a shelf when you’re finished. If you have never done this before, I would start with the EZ cut block.

• speedball lino cutter
• speedball brayer (ink roller)
• ink
• paper

You will also need newspaper to protect your table, a transparency or cookie tray or something washable to roll ink onto. Scrap paper, pencil, masking tape. There is something called a baren (looks like a hocky puck with a handle sometimes) used to apply even pressure on your paper when it is being inked…but I don’t use one. We used a dry brayer for this, but I think some people use the back of a wooden spoon.

Also important, Band-Aids! I cut myself FOUR times when I was carving, both because I was distracted by helping others, and because I’m super special. I was the only person to cut herself. Super special.

So here are the steps:

1. Getting your image on the block.
Come up with a great idea by looking at things you love, or by searching on “block printing” images online.

Once you have an idea you need to either draw that on to your block, or draw over the image with a pencil, then put your image face down on your block and rub with your nail to transfer the pencil you just applied to your block. You will end up with a faint version of your image, which you can fill in with pencil.

For my chair, I found a picture on the internet, then played with it in Photoshop to try to get it as close to black and white as possible (no shades of gray). You can see by the top image, I lost the shadows in the seat. When I traced the image with pencil, I had to decide where I wanted the shadow that would show the bucket of the seat. I drew over my image very hard with pencil, then flipped it over onto my block and rubbed with my thumbnail. Then I drew over it again, once it was on the block.

Remember that if you include writing, it should be backwards on your block so that when it prints it is the right way.

2. Carving
Once you have your image you will carve away everything that you do not want to pick up ink. So I left the dark parts on my block and carved away everything that did not have pencil on it.

Most lino cutters come with several tips (stored in the handle). The most severe “v” shape tip will give you the finest lines. The broader “u” shaped tip with clear away more linoleum faster.

Be VERY careful about carving away from yourself. Keep your fingers away from the path of your carving tool.

3. Printing
I tape newspapers down to protect my table from ink, then I tape a transparency down for my ink.

Transparencies are easy to wash off and to reuse, and the ink spreads nicely on this surface. But you can use a cookie sheet, or maybe even just the newspaper.

Put about a quarter size glob of ink on the transparency and roll the brayer through it as if you were rolling out dough. It looks like you are trying to spread the ink around, but really you are trying to get a nice even coat of ink across the surface of your brayer. You don’t want to over ink the brayer. Keep rolling until you hear a satisfying tacky sound as the brayer rolls through the ink.

Roll your inked brayer across your block. I re-ink my brayer and roll it on the block a second time to ensure there is enough ink.

Use scrap paper for your first several prints until you get a feel for how much ink you will need to get a satisfying print. You may find that you want to go back and carve a little more to get the print you want.
On my block, I’m not happy with the “noise” around the chair. I like that look for some prints, but I want a little cleaner look for this. So, I will likely go back and carve more of this away (after I wash my block off).

Every block has problem areas where it is difficult to get ink, so try to roll your brayere at various angles across your block when you are inking it. Once you test print, you will see where your problem areas are.

Once your block is inked, I suggest putting the paper carefully on top of the inked block and then running over the paper with a clean brayer, or a hockey puck, or the round side of a wooden spoon. This will ensure the ink is transferred evenly from your block to the paper. I have a large candle with a heavy cardboard sticker on the bottom—I’m wondering if that would work, or rolling a soda can over it…You want to find something that will transfer the image nicely to your paper. Try out a few things to see what works best for you.

You can also try putting your block down onto the paper and then pressing on the block.

You can also get fabric paint and try this on fabric. I haven’t tried it yet.

Good luck and if you do this, please send me links to photos of your prints!

what's making me happy this week: 03.22.13

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photos
1. red and white paper straws
2. will’s 5th birthday cake, taken and made (both the cake and the boy) by my dear sis
3. pug shaming

Another cold, gray week, with snow always floating in the air. Nothing serious, in fact sometimes it’s so light and fluffy and purposeless that it blows upward, just riding the air currents in front of my window, as if to say, in a creepy, sing-songy voice, “Flooooooraaaa, we’re still heeeere.”

So again, CRUCIAL to focus on the happy!

What’s making me happy this week:

1. Red and white paper straws…I was shopping for lightbulbs.

2. My nephew’s 5th birday cake! I want that NOW!

3. Doing an image search for “pug shaming” and reading the photos—thanks to my dear daughter for this.

4. Family party. I have a big family with several siblings who live too far away. So when one of our prodigal siblings return to Michigan, as happened last weekend, we have a party with my mom, food, sisters and brothers and in-laws and food, cousins, food, nieces and nephews, food, Apples to Apples, food, Just Dance on the Kinect, food, showing each other funny youtubes and food. Plus more food. It is best to avoid politics and religion at these gatherings, so we eat.

5. Flight of the Conchords “Feel Inside (and Stuff Like That)” video. If you don’t know Flight of the Conchords, you NEED to buy their show on DVD (sadly, only 2 seasons).

6. Joy the Baker podcast. Oh these women make me laugh. And a bonus, they help expand my vocabulary— for example “blazing” is a term for wearing a blazer, as in “I am blazing today, so I hope it will be warm enough not to wear an additional coat.”

7. Linoleum block printing. So fun! I’ll post photos tomorrow.

8. One day this week, at my request, my son unplugged from his earbuds, plugged into the car stereo and played this most excellent choice of songs to perk us up (warning it will be in your brain for at least 5 days). Turn the volume up to 11!

9. …which reminds me of the poem, More than a Woman, by Billy Collins, which I just listened to him (BC) read, also making me happy. Reading it here is faster, but taking a minute ot listen to him read it is pretty fantastic.

10. Looking at my blog makes me happy.
Sometimes throughout the day I will just type in this URL and say to myself, “I made that.” It feels good. It is something I wanted to do for a long time, but I wanted to have everything figured out, every piece in place, a plan, a strategy. One day I thought, you will never have time for all that so just jump in and learn as you go. So I did and I am. I just haven’t told too many people yet…

I hope you are able to find something that makes you happy this week and especially today. If not, google “pug shaming”…


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Photos:
1. my girl, bell’s diner
2. http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/blog/2007_05_01_archive.php
3. office white board dino (by dear daughter)

It has been a very long week, which included a Friday night and all day Saturday work event, and a note on my neighbor’s car apologizing for backing into it and taking out the headlight. (I may sound cavalier, but I’m still sick about it.)

It included saying goodbye to my daughter as she headed back to school after spring break; switching to daylight savings time— spring forward! Not as fun as it sounds; and a warm, promising, sunny Sunday followed by freezing rain, snow, cold and a reminder that we live in the Midwest and what suckers we are to think the snow was over.

All the more reason to focus on the happy!

What’s making me happy this week:
1. Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast—from which I shamelessly/fully stole the title “what’s making me happy this week”
I don’t always agree with this group of NPR culture nerds (Linda liked the Les Mis movie? Wah???) but I adore them from afar, and am always taking notes for interesting stuff to explore. (p.s. “nerd” is a term of endearment and highest praise in my world.)

2. The musical Next to Normal at Meadowbrook Theater. Almost as fantastic as seeing it on Broadway three years ago (see how I dropped that in there? See how cool I am?). Three Tonys. One Pulitzer. Productions are popping up around the country since the book was released last year. Really, if you have the chance, see it. You will not be disappointed. Watch the youtube videos for a taste. Did I mention it’s about mental illness, family dysfunction and loss? All the characteristics of a great musical!

3. Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog. Why? Because Arrested Development always makes me happy.

4. Bi Bim Bop (at Bell’s Diner, with my girl)

5. This Boden sweater I preordered months ago on sale finally arrived (and if I were being compensated for this mention, I would be even happier! but I’m not…compensated.)

6. Lynda Barry at the Michigan Theater. Cartoonist, playwright, artist, teacher, therapist? now neuroscientist? In her introduction yesterday she was described using the m&m lyric, “when a tornado meets a volcano.” Years ago, my kids and I wrote a list (still on our refrigerator) of 10 people living or dead we could invite to THE GREAT dinner party. Lynda was, and is, at the top of my list. Yesterday, I listened to her wisdom and humor. In person. In the gorgeous, historic Michigan Theater. Good day.

(She was here in AA as part of a FREE lecture series—next week Ken Burns. Mossimo Banzi is coming soon- 50 extra points to anyone who knows who this is!)

7. My son singing every word of “the devil went down to Georgia” to me while driving in the car because he can memorize anything after hearing it once and because him singing this song in a Charlie-Daniels-badass way makes me laugh.

8. Sharpies. I’ve been making my “to do” lists with them this week. Oh so satisfying.

9. My nephew Will’s 5th birthday.
In his words, “Hope you get a great day!”
Growing up too fast and too far away. That boy has a special light that shines in him.

10. The dinosaur with braces drawing on my office dry erase board.

I hope you have much that is making you happy this week. If not, pick up a sharpie and make a list, or doodle…I promise it will help.