Instagramming my life away


I started Instagraming when I started the MIID courses talked about in previous posts. I think it combines the best of blogging with the ease of Facebook scrolling through multiple people’s posts. I’ve noticed that if the choice is between grabbing my phone, taking a photo, and uploading it to IG with a couple of hashtags, vs finding the right cord to offload the photo to my computer so I can go through the multiple-step process of logging into my blog and creating a blog post IG wins. Except on sore hand days — then the “ease” of typing on a small phone screen is trumped by my comfy keyboard and the speed at which I can type. I think there’s a place for both blogging and the soundbyte methods (twitter and IG) but worry that blogging will go the way of the blink tag in html.

FYI, here’s my latest IG post (as of this writing): planner charms. Did I mention I’m on a planner kick and have dug all my old daytimer/dayrunner/franklin covey things out of their rubbermaid box? It’s already turned into one of my creative addictions and I’ve only been back in the planner world for a short time. Good clean fun, and useful too.

Brief #3 MIID Summer School — Jewels


The third and final brief of the Make It In Design Summer School was centered around Jewels. I immediately began day dreaming about tiaras and other sparkly things and spent hours browsing Pinterest and Google images. But my first sketches went nowhere. As did my second set. And because I was leaving on vacation in just a few days I felt a lot of stress, and didn’t sleep well the night after the assignment was given (Monday). The next day I was groggy enough to sit down for a few minute nap in my favorite chair (a green Lay-Z-Boy with massage and heat, my back loves it). After just 5 minutes I woke up knowing exactly what I was going to do for my pattern — isn’t it funny how the brain works? A few years previously I’d discovered Twinkling H20s, a glittery watercolor paint in a wonderful range of colors — and the set I have is jewel tones. After creating a set of shapes in Adobe Illustrator I printed them out and began to paint.

painted gem shapes on paper

Painting in the jewel shapes for my pattern

Once the shapes were painted I cut them out and then arranged them into shapes and scanned them.

watercolor gem shapes arranged into flower shape

Individual gem shapes arranged into a flower and then scanned

I also created some strands of “pearls” for the background in AI, and then took both the “pearls” and the gem flowers into Photoshop.

swirls made in Adobe Illustrator

Swirls of pearls for the background on the surface design pattern

Once I had all the elements in Photoshop I arranged them and rearranged them until I created a seamless pattern, which I then submitted to the class gallery.

Flower gems as a seamless pattern

Flower Gems repeat pattern

Once the pattern was submitted I decided to apply it to my mockup to see how it would look, and was quite pleased with the result.

repeat pattern on mockup

Flower Gems repeat pattern on product mockup

I’m quite pleased with my design for the third and final brief, and feel the class really improved my skills as well as forced me to learn some pattern-specific aspects of both Photoshop and Illustrator.



Make It In Design Brief #2 — Tribal Theme Pattern Design


The second brief for the Make It In Design summer school program revolved around Tribal patterns. Having never designed anything tribal, I went looking at my childhood in South Dakota and Alaska for inspiration and found lots of beautiful artwork, including some inspiration from things I own.

"Eskimo" doll from late 1960s

Native American doll made from Seal Fur, a present from my mom when I was in grade school in Alaska.

As lovely as the memories were, those styles, colors, and patterns didn’t feel like the right direction for this assignment, so I went back to the brief and centered my exploration on the triangles and lines mentioned in the bullet points.

sketch book with pens and coffee

Sketches of various triangles and other shapes

The not-quite-triangles with the squiggles and some wavy lines ended up being the base for my submitted pattern. The colors are both bright and subtle, and the pattern is a seamless repeat (which I have to say is one of the biggest challenges I’ve overcome in Adobe Illustrator).

tribal pattern for class

The submitted pattern

I’m quite happy with the way the pattern turned out and like how elements of it can be used both large and small.

mockup showing pattern on pillows and aprons

Mockup of “Tribal Notions” pattern on products

Make It In Design Summer School


I’m one of the many folks obsessing over the Make It In Design summer school program this summer — so much so that I haven’t blogged anything about it yet. It’s a six week course, with a brief delivered to participants every other week and that assignment due the week after, for a total of three assignments. The Facebook group is a very big part of the course, with participants from all three levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) posting rough sketches, how-to and style questions, and finished designs.

sketch of pattern design

sketch for Brief #1 of MIID summer school

I’ve never tried my hand at surface pattern design before, so it’s been a huge learning curve. I have really, really enjoyed the challenge, even when I was feeling like banging my head against the nearest wall. I was pleased to finish brief #1 before the deadline and uploaded my pattern to the website gallery.

pattern design

Pattern as submitted to MIID Summer School

I felt I’d met the requirements, but wasn’t actually satisfied with what I’d designed. For one thing, it wasn’t a repeat pattern. For another, the colors were bright and tropical, but I could see the weren’t the type of colors that someone would buy in the form of a pillow or a kitchen towel (typical media for patterns).

I decided to leave the pattern as uploaded and be ready to move on to the next class…and then I ended up taking a class from Creative Live on Surface Pattern Design during the week between when I turned my pattern in and when the next assignment was given, and my mind got blown. (Well, further blown, actually, since it was already pretty close to explosion levels thanks to the amazing patterns I was seeing in the MIID Facebook group.) That class taught me how to make a repeat pattern, and how to apply it as an Adobe Illustrator pattern to a vector mockup of a product. So much for doing things like house cleaning or paying bills…I felt that I needed to take my sunny tropical idea of a pattern from true beginner to something a little more sophisticated. So I did.

repeat pattern in two color variations

My tropical pattern from Brief #1 turned into a softer repeat pattern.

I’m very happy with how my revised tropical pattern turned out, and really excited about everything I managed to learn in a two-week period. Making repeat patterns is quite addictive, and I’m sure that I’ll continue to make patterns long after the MIID Summer School 2014 has ended.

Working for a higher purpose vs. cleaning the toilet


People throw around phrases and words like “spiritual meaning” when talking about what they do for a living, but there’s a hard cold truth about work that most folks hate to admit: for most of the folks talking about their “higher purpose” it’s really hot air and a way of rationalizing the long hours and time away from family and friends. Seriously, sitting on a mountain top meditating has spiritual meaning, selling knick knacks or services only has the meaning that you pretend it has.

Pretend is not a bad thing — pretending we all get along and agree is how nations are run. It’s what keeps corporations from imploding when there’s a change of management. And it’s how most marriages survive past the first couple of years. It’s a good thing both for stability and mental health. But believing (i.e. pretending) that your life’s bliss comes from having a deep spiritual bond with your clients and that your only real goal is to enhance the universe has two huge problems when it comes to business:

  • A business needs to make money, and that type of airy-fairy attitude not only doesn’t encourage people to spend money with you, it often keeps you from asking or demanding money and respect.  
  • It can keep someone who is making a decision based on rational thought from respecting your pricing because in the back of their mind they’ll assume your prices are based on emotion rather than hard cold numbers, and if the prices are based on emotions they can use emotion to get you to change your prices.

How many forum posts and private emails go around every time a small business owner has a client who doesn’t respect him or her and who treats them badly? Lots. It happens daily in some industries, with the same people posting/emailing the same complaints over and over.

And how often do you think that attitude in the client has been accidentally nurtured by the business owner being all “spiritual meaning” about their work and leading the client to believe that the business owner will do ANYTHING to keep from having their spiritual meaning tarnished? Seriously, you just gave a pushy client a giant advantage, because if this is more than just how you pay your mortgage they know that you’ll honestly do anything to keep them happy.

But in addition to giving the client power, by making your work all about some kind of “higher purpose” you’ve given yourself an “out” to not do certain things well. Bookkeeping for example — you can justify ignoring the numbers by telling yourself you’re following your bliss. You can focus on the things that are your “passion” and happily ignore those things that actually make a business successful, which usually means numbers and processes and nitty-gritty late nights doing non-creative things while your family and friends are out having fun.

Sadly, 99% of running a business (any business) is sweat and paperwork and customer service rather than the bliss that modern “isn’t my office beautiful” magazines would have you believe. There’s not a lot of spiritual bliss in realizing you need to scrub the office toilet before the client comes in, especially not when you know that specific client doesn’t respect you and will demand extra services and more attention and not want to pay you for those things.

Newsletters that have no news


Once upon a time I used to get newsletters that were full of information. Both online and in print, they had info and tips up the wazoo. Some I paid for, some were free.

I now get at least 10 times as many “newsletters” and every single small tidbit in them is a hint, not an actual tip — you can only get the real info (the “news” part of the word newsletter) by going to a website and reading (or watching) boatloads of over the top selling pitches for their membership-based forum, their online training, their Skype training, or their in-person conferences. And what are those tidbits when you finally get to them? Regurgitated Zig Ziglar pep talks with examples from “Tom T.” and “Sarah H.” talking about how much they learned from the next pricier item up.

I’m really wondering “where’s the beef?” these days — actual tips and info seem to be missing from most of the tips and info out there. And seriously, if I wanted more Zig in my life I’d go to the source (which I can get for free at the LIBRARY) rather than crawling through waves of “funnel pages” and ending up paying more than a new car for your regurgitated version of him.



Poor Maggie Mae. For a while her intestinal tumor was shrinking, and the vet was very hopeful. But in the last week she’s been fading a bit. She’s lost more weight, isn’t eating as much, and is barfing more. We’re tracking how she acts and reacts, very aware of our responsibility as fur-parents to not let her suffer. It’s not quite time but we can feel it inching closer.

She has times when she purrs a lot and hangs out in the sunshine the same as the other cats, and times where she wants only to be alone in the back room. Watching a cat battle cancer — something they can’t claw at, can’t hiss at, and just suffer through — is an education in true illness. There is nothing worse for human or animal than to feel your body betraying you. She’s never been the best digestion-wise, but this is beyond her.

The best we can hope for is to fill the time she has left with tasty food and warm laps since those two things were always what made her happy.



I posted this over on my Google Plus profile, but thought I’d copy it here since it’s a typical “tamra musing” type of thing, and this blog is turning into my musing spot.

There are always some clients who say “but it was only a small change, how could it cost that much?” Conceptually small and time to complete the whole task are actually two different things, especially when you’re talking about any task that involves a modern computer.

Doesn’t matter what OS you’re using, what webhost, what content management system, what software, or what database — in every project there are times you’re either looking at the interface wondering where the option you want is hidden, or staring at the screen watching a save. You need to bill and account for this time, the same way you need to bill and account for finding old projects that have been archived, tracking down the font that only this one client has ever wanted to use, figuring out if the license agreement on the piece of art/set of icons/website allows you to do what the client wants and has been paid for, and so on.

Nobody wants to face it, but there are almost no “just a 15 minute small change” projects in the modern world. Systems and software have both grown too complex for that. When it takes you 15 minutes to figure out where in the interface the item you want is hidden, and another 15 to watch the system process your changes, plus another 15 to double check that your changes actually happened in the document or on the live website, you’re stuck in a world where a simple change takes an hour of billable time.

waiting for the system

Waiting for Godot…er, I mean the Amazon hosted store system to process a change.

Computers, operating systems, and software are all faster than they were…supposedly. But we keep adding layers of complexity that slow things back down again. Nobody wants to create or read an on-grey text-only web page now that we have CSS and screens capable of showing millions of colors, but those pre-1995 sites loaded faster on super slow dial-up than today’s modern sites do on ultra-fast internet connections.

Just a little something to think about for a Thursday.

The Adventures of Maggie Mae

The Adventures of Maggie Mae

Mags is currently in the area of the house we call Bruce’s Office — his desk might be there, but it’s really the cats’ room. Besides the footstool with the cat bed on it, there’s the little antique chair with the cat bed on it, the two baskets on the floor with soft towels in them, and the two chairs with blankets and well-kneeded crocheted throws on them. In other words, they have their choice of beds, and hopefully they can each find one without fighting someone else for it. And they can see out the window to the front yard, where birds sometimes sing.

She’s taking Lactulose to help move her digestion along, and this week she gets liquid steriods morning and night to hopefully shrink the tumor — I hope it does something besides make her hungry, because she hates it. Really really hates it. Which means that I end up wearing it twice a day. It’s pink, and sticky, and the drop that got in my mouth tasted bitter and angry. No wonder she hides in his office instead of sleeping by me. I’m the official kitty holder, Bruce is the syringe man, but she associates me with the taste since I’m the one holding her. Poor baby.

She’s lively enough to fight us, purrs, and is alert — which makes me hopeful. Cautiously, of course. I’ve had too many cats over the years to be anything but cautious.

My Own Grumpy Cat


Pets can teach us many things — about responsibility, about love, about patience, and about joy. Unfortunately they can also teach us about pain, sorrow, and ill-health.

Maggie Mae was the nearly 20 lb bundle of grumpy love we got from Friends of Felines in 2005 or so. She growls at our manx tabby, glares at our outdoor cats, and runs when someone knocks at the door. She has always had digestion problems, and we’ve assumed her bad temper was a result of not feeling 100% a lot of the time. She was sweet to us, always, even when she’d just barfed. And she loved to eat, and gained even more weight from when we adopted her. Her moods and reaction to food made it obvious that there was some underlying emotional need, or maybe something physical, that she (in her own determined kitty way) tried to heal with food.

But we’ve spent the past two months having many, many trips to the vet hoping that the latest dramatic digestion problems were just temporary, and that we’d find the right balance of food and meds to keep her un-constipated and eating. She’s lost nearly 10 lbs since this started.

Unfortunately, that desired balance may never happen. X-rays didn’t show it, but our vet was determined and kept looking. It seems there’s a mass, hidden behind a bone so it didn’t show up on X-rays. They’re pretty sure it’s cancer.

Our job now is harder — deciding at what point the grumpy girl is no longer happy, and has reached the point of miserable and suffering.

It’s going to be a really crappy weekend.