Getting Unstuck

unstuckI recently bought a pretty awesome book.  In fact, I’d say it’s the best book I’ve bought in the past few years.  (That I remember)  It’s called “Unstuck:  52 Ways to get and keep your creativity flowing”  by Noah Scalin.  Mr. Scalin is an artist and teacher at VCU.   The object of the book is to help you get “Creatively Unstuck.”  We all get in ruts. We usually want to get out of the rut, but aren’t sure how to do it.  Mr. Scalin suggests that the best way to get the creative juices flowing is to take a break from what’s stumping you and do something completely different and creative.  His book includes everything from 30 second googly eye projects to multi-hour projects using found art.    Upon buying the book, I immediately flipped to the back to look at all of the big projects.  I poured over the urban alphabet project and photo safari and thought, “this would be so amazing if…”   Then, I remembered that I’m a mom who works a full time job and if I have time to do those projects, then I should have time to fold the laundry.  So, I flipped right back to the 30 second project and got to work.

The first project I jumped on was called “Eye Spy.”  The basic jist of it is to make a pair of eyes (googly, sketched, etc) and put them on stuff to make faces.  That’s it.  It seemed pretty straightforward to me, but I couldn’t figure out why it would help me get unstuck.  In my opinion, it didn’t take a lot of creativity to stick some eyes on a pole or a wall.  I was so wrong.  It wasn’t the actual pictures I was taking that helped me get creative.  It was the FUN I had while doing it.  By the time I had 3 or 4 pictures of school equipment with eyes, I was ready to go back to my desk and get to work.  The physical results- you can see below.  Some are hilarious and some are just ordinary.  But, mentally?  I’m ready to take on a web design project!

Do yourself a favor and go get this book.  I think they have a few copies at Chop Suey in RVA.  Or you can just go make some googly eyes and stick them on things.

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I have to admit, I am a device junkie.  My husband will agree that it is rare that you will find me without my smartphone, my iPad, or a laptop.  (Sometimes it’s a combination of the 3 – with TV playing in the background.)  It’s not something I’m proud of- just a fact.  So, I try to make a conscious effort not to let K & E pick up those same habits.

This year, there was a snowman there to greet us!

This year, there was a snowman there to greet us!

Thank goodness I married someone who is the exact opposite!  Once a year, we book a trip to Canaan Valley, WV to stay in a little cabin and go skiing.  And once a year- I am forced to separate myself from all of my devices and contact with the outside world.  Admittedly, I still bring my phone for emergencies and my iPad to read books (Hey!  It packs much better than a stack of books)- but outside of that- NOTHING!  No texting, no facebook, no twitter, no checking email like my life depends on it, and – my worst habit– no streaming netflix!!

Those are the smiles of 2 little girls that are about to eat S'Mores

Those are the smiles of 2 little girls that are about to eat S’Mores

What I discover each year is that – as a family- we really like hanging out with each other.  We spent 4 straight days together and I can’t remember a time when I wondered who was kicked off project runway* or how many people had already seen Les Mis before me.  I learned that:

  • My hubby is a master at making fires
  • K is ridiculously coordinated (figured out ice skating after 1 loop around the rink)
  • E has no fear.  At only 3 years old, she skied down the mountain with her dad.
  • As a family- we LOVE buffet dinners.  (Seriously- walk in and immediately get your food.  No waiting!!  Why don’t we do that more often?)
  • I can only eat 1 S’more
  • My dog, Arnold, hates snow.  What a wimp!
stay-puffed marshmallow girls?

stay-puffed marshmallow girls?

Going on trips like this helps me realize that I need to find ways to take breaks from all of my connectivity.  (she said 2 weeks after starting a blog)   I’m not going to lie- I can’t give up my “toys” or my desire to check facebook one more time before bed, but I am going to make an effort to find more things for us to do as a family.  Here’s what I’ve found so far:

G.O.I.N.G.- my friend started this group on facebook last year and it’s on my to do list.  They plan outings around Richmond and share activities and crafts for the outdoors.

BabbaBox– I came across this reading the LateEnough blog.  (If you’re not reading her blog, you should- she is hilarious!)  This company makes boxes of themed crafts for you to do with your kids.  They put everything that you need in the box.  The goal is that you don’t have to go to the store for anything!

Blackwater Falls, WV

Blackwater Falls, WV

The Green Kitchen– My hubby and I love cooking together.  We went to a few classes at Sur la Table and met one of their teachers, Tammy Brawley.   She was fantastic and has since started her own business and offers cooking classes.

What else is out there?  If you’ve discovered something fun to do with your family, share it!


*Spoiler Alert: They didn’t kick anyone off this week because “They are all so talented.”  This, of course, is not a spoiler because they do this at least once every other season.  But at least I didn’t miss anything…

My winter break relationship with ds106

Every year, I get a nice 2 week holiday break from work that includes lots of down time.  At that same time, the ds106  crew gear up for their winter MOOC.  ds106 and I usually get along great when I’m on vacation. Unfortunately, our relationship fades when I go back to work and all of my creative juices are re-purposed into other projects.  The best part of ds106 is their spin-off site.  Basically, anyone who has a good idea for a media “assignment” can submit it here under the category of visual, design, audio, video, web, writing, fanfic, or mashup.  If you see something that peaks your interest, you can create and submit it to the site.  This morning, a friend shared a link to his most recent assignment submission “Not Quite Norma Jeane” where you are supposed to make a grid of faces “a la Marilyn Monroe.”   Time on my hands?  Check.  Rainy day?  Check.  Adorable children who like to make faces?  Check!

ds106:  here you go!  I’ll miss you in a few weeks when I get back to work, but we’ll meet again on my next vacation.

Kids a la Marilyn

Thanks Tom for the assignment idea.   For anyone who’s curious, I used my iPhone 5 for the pictures and adobe fireworks* to make the grid.  I actually used the blur tool on the background to make it look a little more like I have an awesome manual camera that can focus in on certain things.  I kind of want to blow it up and hang it in my room now.

*I know, I know… I should use photoshop or something a little better than fireworks, but fireworks is on my mac and I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t open my Dell (which has photoshop) until I went back to work.


I have started and stopped blogs more times than I care to admit.  Time is usually the culprit.  Too much time is the usual catalyst and lack of time- it’s ultimate demise.  This time, I thought I’d blog about cooking adventures… then I realized that I only cook “blog-worthy” things about once every month or so.  (emphasis on the or so)  Next, I thought about telling parenting stories.  Of course, while I think my daughters are the most interesting, entertaining, and beautiful children on the planet, I questioned whether or not anyone else would want to read about them.  Finally, I thought about using this as a place for design stuff.  Once again- the question “Is this blog-worthy?”  popped in my head.   So, I’m left with this:  a hodge-podge of stuff.  Just stuff.  I’ll promise to try to only post the interesting stuff.  Mostly.