27 days to go — are you ready?

My Digital Studio…getting you ready for — Mother’s Day!
Sunday, May 12th.  Are you ready?

If you’re not, we have some wonderful My Digital Studio options for you — a swatch book to create your very own personalized cookbook for your mom…or mum.  Also some great card templates to show some love to those special moms in your life.

And for any grads…we have some great sentiments for those, too.

*Because I Love You Swatchbook Template – 134373 – Price: $12.95
*For Mom Greeting Card Templates – 133476 – Price: $2.95
*Pure Gumption Stamp Brush Set – 134535 – Price: $3.95

Check ’em out

My Two Dads

Reminiscent of the late 1980’s U.S. sitcom, I have been blessed with “My Two Dads”.  My relationships with each are as different as they are.  For the many reasons that makes them each unique, I wholeheartedly love them both, and am thankful to have them in my life.

Many things that I love about my dad can be categorized by his zest for life.  He likes things bright, bold, and a little zany.  Here’s what I mean — his favorite color is orange, and I don’t mean some muted burnt sienna orange, or a light pastel orange, I’m talkin’ neon, calling your attention, bright orange!  He drives what we call “The Blue Bomb” — it is one of the easiest cars to find in the parking lot and one of the easiest to follow on the freeway — it truly striking in its hue.  From all the places my dad visits — near or far, there are two items he must have to commemorate his travels — a shot glass, and a bumper sticker.  He loves all foods spicy, flavorful, and always followed by chocolate.

A graphic word cloud created by "Wordle" using  dad-related words
A graphic word cloud created by “Wordle” using dad-related words

To make my dad’s Father’s Day card I employed the use of Wordle, one of my favorite free Internet tools for creating graphic word clouds.  I basically did a free word association with all things “dad” – and for those words that I wanted to appear larger, I repeated them.

The result was a word cloud graphically represented in my choice of colors, font, layout preferences, etc.  I printed the image on dark green card stock, punched out several squares and then used a glue stick to arrange them over a textured wheat-colored card stock.  I punched out two gift tags, stamped “No. 1 Dad” and attached the tags with an orange eyelet, and stuck them on with a double-sided 3D foam adhesive.  Inside I used an Autumn Leaves “You are Amazing” stamp.  The result – a masculine and personalized card acknowledging the truly amazing dad that I have.

Number One Dad Father's Day card

Handmade Father's Day Card using Wordle

When I think of my Papi, I think of his love and fascination with all things scientific, historical, and indigenous.  As he is himself a mix of French and Incan, the interest in native people from his native Perú (and all over the world) totally makes sense.  The Nazca Lines have always intrigued him — how did they get there?  what do they represent?  what can we learn from them?  — all curious questions.  In addition to his insatiable appetite for knowledge and learning, my Papi also likes to stay below the radar.  This can be chalked up to humility, or simply attributed to his desire for a simple contented life.  When I hear my Papi’s voice in my head, his rant and rave will forever be “hay que preservar el castellano” — he never referred to us speaking Spanish, it was always “el castellano”, which can be literally translated to Castilian (but refers to Spanish) — but this has always been his way to remind us that we didn’t merely speak Spanish, but “castellano” — big difference!

In honor of Papi, I chose a bright pattern, highlighting geometric lines often associated with Native cultures, made sure to choose stamps bearing good news in “castellano”, and kept is simple and below the radar with a small, but honest, “Happy Father’s Day” message.

Handmade Father's Day card for my Papi

Papi's Father's Day card

To both of my dads, I love you, I am grateful for you, and wish you a Happy Father’s Day.

Thank you for applying

I remember back in the day (and my days don’t even go that far back) in the world of job hunting, one would scour the want-ads, agencies, and weekly publications for potential jobs.  Then after spending due time updating, revising, and reordering the resumé, construct the best sales pitch of themselves, and print the final products on quality-grade resumé paper before snail-mailing off the documents in letter-sized envelopes.  Within a week to two weeks one could expect a response from prospective HR departments, confirming receipt of the documents, and giving a general picture of the hiring process.  After, say, another month, one might then receive an invitation to interview, or receive a discouraging letter containing some sort of “thanks for applying, but we’ve selected another candidate”.  Although those letters were never fun to receive, something unexpected was also contained within the paper walls of the envelope — closure.  The knowledge that either a door had been opened along with an invitation to step inside, or the confirmation that the door had been closed, and the push to continue searching.  Nowadays, with the presence of technology (among other factors), the job-hunting process has changed.

One can still scour for job openings, but instead of having to “pound the pavement” and make the rounds to prospective companies, or travel from one free employment circular dispenser to another, one can now surf the employment opportunities worldwide with a computer, Internet connection, the right sites, and dedication of time.  The process still requires a resumé that captures attention and properly sells the candidate; cover letters still need to be constructed just so, however, in addition to printing them out on textured papers and mailing them off, job hunters now also have the option of sending their documents almost-instantaneously to HR representatives by email.  In addition, many organizations also have online applications which require the near-recreation of one’s resumé, however, with more detail.  Now it’s in the steps after applications have been submitted where I have experienced the most changes in the process.

For the most part, after I have thrown my hat in the ring, whether electronically or by post, I will receive some sort of “we have received your application” email from HR departments.  I appreciate this message at least to know that my documents have not gotten lost in some sort of unemployment black hole.  The content of the message might vary to include a general idea of the process, or even to provide a timeline for the particular position in question, but for the most part it will at least thank me for applying, and let me know that I will be contacted if I am being considered, but to otherwise refrain from following up with the HR department.  In rare cases, I will later receive a follow-up communication thanking me for applying and letting me know that the position has been filled.  Sometimes I get these within a couple months of applying, but I have had cases where I receive this closure as late as six to eight months after submitting my documents.

I have to say, I really miss the concrete fork in the process of “sorry, but the position has been filled” or “we’d like to schedule an interview with you”.  With the many advances we have in technology, it seems like one could create an email list and send off a mass communiqué updating applicants on the successful filling of a position.  For those HR offices that find themselves swamped with applicants, and consider the idea of sending out mass emails to bring closure to applicants as an undue burden, they could also try another approach.  I have come across some institutions which regularly (on a weekly or semi-monthly basis) update and publish their list of open positions with job search notations — open until filled, reviewing applications, interviewing, closed, etc.  This puts the responsibility back on interested job searchers to go back and visit the organization’s site if they want to know how the search is going, but also provides the most-powerful gift of closure.  Ironically, for me, this closure not only closes the door, but also helps provide the fuel for me to continue.  Without the communication, one way or another, it can often feel discouraging to go through the process yet again with no apparent results.  Now, logically, in my head, and also in my heart of hearts I open up the files, and go through the process one step at a time — over and over again, because I am filled with the hope and belief that it will eventually pay off.

So, to those who have impact and influence in your organizations, check in with your HR folks — let them know how valuable those few keystrokes can be to bring hope or closure to applicants.  And to my fellow unemployed, I hope that you, too, can sustain a sense of hope, and if you don’t hear it from potential employers, hear it from me — Thank You for applying.  Keep it up.  I believe it will pay off.

Look Ma, I’m cable-free!

I have to confess — when the conditions are right (i.e. gloomy weather, slow day, some additional time on my hands, etc.) I enjoy a good movie in the middle of the day.  Whether it’s watching Barbra Streisand drive Yves Montand crazy in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever or take a trip to Hertfordshire to witness the blossoming relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, it can be comforting to have some additional voices, characters, and an engaging story added to my day.  Today was one of those days.

Most recently in the land of homemade cards I have been playing with dimensions, using cut shapes, and adding fasteners.  As I was working on some cards for upcoming events (will post pics and more details later) I pulled out my hubby’s laptop to stream a classic from Netflix.  Midway through watching Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole figure out How to Steal a Million the mail came, and along with it a new cool tool.  My husband recently saw an email from Netflix, informing him that a new option is being delivered, allowing viewers to take advantage of “Watch Instantly” streaming options via the Nintendo Wii platform.  He liked the idea and signed us up.  So today in the mail, a special disc (looks no different than your typical CD, DVD, or Wii game disc) arrives, that upon being loaded into the Wii console and then activated, allows us to stream our viewing choice — no cables.  Being the curious, ever-experimenting, always learning individual that I am, I decided to watch the second half of my movie via the Wii.  What a treat!

Set up was incredibly easy.  Just load the disc (seriously more complicated to figure out which mode my TV has to be in to access the Wii), follow the instructions to activate the disc via the laptop, and then browse through viewing options.  Netflix has set up a very Wii-like menu interface, that allowed me to use the controls on the Wii remote to navigate through genres, titles, queued listings, and descriptions to make my choice.  Since How to Steal a Million was already in my queue it was easy to find.  So, while Hepburn and O’Toole talked about precious art and forgeries in the background, I happily made some art of my own.  The viewing quality was great, the convenience well-appreciated, and I was able to pause from across the room using the Wii remote.  Thanks Netflix and Wii.  And thank you, to my husband for signing us up.

Campaigning for Hope

Today in Los Angeles there were Special Elections to fill two seats in the State Assembly.  Since I didn’t know any of the four candidates’ names on the ballots, and found only one candidate statement in the sample ballot I turned to the Internet to learn more about those running.  I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of politics, often even less a fan of politicians, and I register as Independent.  This being said, I believe strongly in taking the responsibility of voting seriously, and try to do the best I can to cast my ballot with reason and knowledge.  When it comes to visiting candidate websites, I often struggle wondering how much I can trust in what they write and promise, and also understanding and expecting  that candidates will work to put their best foot forward, meanwhile hoping that I can trust in their intentions.

The four candidates are, of course, four very different individuals.  They come from different cultural backgrounds, have different careers, are motivated in different ways, and in their campaigns focus on different areas.  However, amidst all these differences, amidst the differences that we all have as individuals there seemed to be a common message, and a common desire — hope.

Photo of State Assembly Candidate, Sunder Ramani and his family

Sunder Ramani and his family

Sunder Ramani, born in Bangalore, India, was able to pursue the “American Dream”, build a business, build a family, and seeks to create opportunities for others to do the same.  By focusing on building jobs through small businesses, improving the quality of education, and working across party lines, Ramani plans to make a positive difference.  His hope — to keep the American Dream alive so that all can build a fulfilling life.

California State Assembly Candidate Nayiri Nahabedian in the classroom

Nayiri Nahabedian in the classroom

Nayiri Nahabedian has spent most of her life in Southern California, although originally from Boston, and has made it her home.  She took advantages of many educational opportunities, became involved with providing social services to others, and focuses on bettering the lives of those in her community.  Through mentoring programs, educational resources, and community involvement, Nahabedian is working to use her influence and power for good.  Her hope — to ensure that individuals receive the services they need to pursue healthy and successful lives.

California State Assembly Candidate Chahe Keuroghelian from his campaign materials

Chahe Keuroghelian profiled against his campaign materials

Chahe Keuroghelian began his journey of community involvement and service through law enforcement.  He has offered his skills as a multilinguist (five languages) to act as a Public Information Officer, Community Service Officer, and member of a neighborhood Crime Prevention Unit.  He has been involved in a number or community organizations and projects.  He seeks to build hope in the lives of those around him by supporting small businesses, building consensus amongst his colleagues, and investing in youth.  His hope — to bring communities together and protect the rights of all in order to live peaceful and rich lives.

California State Assembly Candidate Mike Gatto

Mike Gatto speaking with fellow citizens

Mike Gatto seeks to uphold, not only the American Dream, but also the California Dream.  Having been raised in the belief that anything is possible if one is willing to work hard, pursue an education, and act as a responsible citizen, he seeks to ensure that it is a reality and truth for others.  With a background in law, Gatto has worked to move through the legal system to make changes that will improve the lives of others.  He uses his position, knowledge, and experience to restore a sense of hope by protecting California’s natural resources, working to bring balance to the state budget, and provide opportunities for youth.  His hope — to protect the California Dream in order that individuals can live in beauty, peace, and happiness.

No matter the avenues to do so, no matter the particular focus, no matter the story in the background — each of these candidates seems to be working through their God-given talents, their passions, and their experience to keep dreams alive, better the quality of life of their fellow citizens, and preserve hope.

So rather than, “may the best candidate win”, I say, “may the winning candidate be and do the best they can to follow through with their intentions and campaign for hope, and may those who don’t win continue daily in their campaigns for hope.”

UPDATE: I visited Secretary of State, Debra Bowen‘s site (I think it’s quite cool how she employs a variety of technological mediums to keep voters informed — her site, Twitter, etc.) this morning to check for results.  Not only do I find the percentages and votes to be interesting in that there doesn’t seem to be any strong leaning, but also that it reinforces that these individuals represent the interests and motivations of so many members in our community.  I hope they all can take away from this that we all want to better our lives, and take their responsibility to do their part in representing us seriously.  Again I say, may the winning candidate be and do the best they can, and may those who don’t win continue to strive towards daily making a positive impact.

Not Just For Directions

For nearly four weeks now I’ve not only been stretching my legs through my neighborhood streets, but also Googling my way through various twists and turns trying to find the best routes.  The best route can include anything from pretty houses to downward slopes to pedestrian-

friendly sidewalks.  With the aid of Google Maps I was charting my path and mapping out my distances.  The “map-by-walking” feature was nice to give me an estimated time, however, the one drawback was the fact that my feet did not always take the same path as the wheels on the cars around me.  Minor, and totally livable, but a drawback when every step, every minute, and every tenth of a mile count.  I don’t know how I found it, but the other day when searching for local 5K and the like in my area, I came across the Gmaps Pedometer.  This is a cool tool.

Here's what the Gmaps Pedometer interface looks like

Using the Gmaps Pedometer one can map out a running/walking or cycling route, can follow paved streets, or add in those cuts through the park, measure distance, measure calories burned, and for those with the inclination — even measure via the metric system. You can even view an analysis of the elevation, but truthfully, when I clicked that option the results meant very little to me, other than viewing a small graph with hills and valleys.

Here’s a quick run-down of how it works.  It is pretty intuitive, free, and even produces a URL for saved routes that one can bookmark or save to favorites for future reference.  NOTE: I accessed this tool using Firefox on my Mac; it might vary slightly across other browsers, and even possibly, other platforms.  When you first visit http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ you’ll likely see a screen with the main interface (pictured here), and a map with a box for entering your starting point.

The Gmaps Pedometer map

If starting your route from home, you can just enter the address and click go.  There is the additional option of customizing the zoom level before clicking “go”, or just enter go and adjust the zoom on the map itself.  When you’re ready to start adding points to route, click the “start recording” button.  You can now either enter addresses, or use the cursor to drag the map to your desired direction, then double click to enter a new point on the map.  As you continue adding points, you’ll see the distance begin to add up.  By default, the pedometer will be set to automatically draw the route for runners or cyclists, but if you like to take those non-wheel-friendly cuts in the path, you can switch to the “manually” (straight lines) option, make that cut through the park, and then go back to automatically — finally a way to go off the beaten path.  If needed, you can “undo the last point” or even “clear all points and start over”.  If you choose to do so, you can even enter your weight and receive a “calories burned” number.  When finished, you can click “save” and the program will produce a URL for you, that you can use to “save to favorites” or “bookmark”, you can print, and for those who need it, there is also an option to export to GPX.  Like I said, very cool.

Here's what my route most likely looked like in college...

In addition to creating a really nifty tool, the good folks at Google, have also been kind enough to put together some basic usage directions.  Of course, I saw these after playing with it and finding my way around, but like I said, it’s quite intuitive.

For those of you interested in a review of the Gmaps Pedometer alongside some other route-mapping tools, check out this article from Anick Jesdanun in The Berkshire Eagle.

Happy mapping!

Who Says Christmas Comes But Once a Year?

Yes, I know it’s April, nearly four months after Christmas, and another eight months until we celebrate again, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.  In college I would chide my roommate for digging out the carols in October, but now I totally get it.

Today on my “Active” Run a 5K plan I was set to walk 30 minutes.  Admittedly, at the end of the day, just before dinner, and with daylight hours fading I can’t say that I was raring to go — even if only to walk for 30 minutes.  In an attempt to motivate myself, I threw on my workout clothes, laced up the shoes, got my Nano ready and set out.  I chose this evening to stay close in the neighborhood, and admire the beautiful homes around me.  As I was scrolling through my playlists trying to find just the right one, I came across a beloved favorite…”Unique Sounds of Christmas”.  Although the beats weren’t all fast, the rhythms slower than normal, the music sang to my soul, and again my feet were moving.  Beauty pulsed through my ears, beauty passed before my eyes — the effect filled me, heart, body, and soul.  The walk that I was dragging my feet to take, was now fast becoming the best part of my day — spring flowers radiated in their color, families dined on their patios, and dog-walkers reveled in the mountainside views.  Each step filled me with confidence, strength, exhilaration.

So, for those of you interested in infusing your adventures with a little holiday spirit, check out a Christmas iMix that I posted on iTunes the Christmas before last.  Enjoy, and may it be a merry one!