Monday, January 26, 2015

Things Making Me Happy - Winter 2015

I'm usually a fairly happy person, but winter can be a struggle (for anyone, not just me). The shorter days with limited sunlight, long stretches of frigid New England temperatures and suburbia's lack of cultural diversions can be a drag. Winter just lasts longer here. So I'm making a point of focusing on the small stuff that makes me extra happy. Physical objects that bring me joy. Here's the first list – hope you like it!

First, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is the best book I've read in a long while. It came out in 2012, but I'm a little late to the game. This book presents a fascinating and completely realized collection of characters and worlds and is beautifully written, with passages that feel more like poetry than fiction. This book is equal parts love story, travel narrative and mystery and it includes a play, a screenplay, a chapter of a Hollywood memoir and a war memoir. Though the book spans more than fifty years and follows dozens of intricate story lines, it never felt contrived or confusing. On the contrary, it felt very real and almost believable, and I was devastated when it all ended. So much so, that I actually immediately started it over again. I LOVED this book! I would go so far as to say it saved my January.

Next up: beautiful, bright, tactile objects. I recently got a new case for my iPhone and surprised myself by gravitating toward the neon red color option, which is actually more of a neon peachy-salmon. I'm almost always drawn to blues and greens, but this color really spoke to me and I'm glad I stepped outside my comfort zone. It makes me happy every time I see it and is also slightly soft for good grip, but not so rubbery that it can't easily slip in and out of my pocket. The Incipio NGP case was recommended by The Wirecutter and only cost $13 on Amazon!

One of my goals (always) is to drink more water. I don't drink nearly enough – I just never think of it – and a friend recently suggested that if I had a great vessel I loved drinking from, I might be more inclined to remember. After some searching, I decided on a bkr bottle (pronounced "beaker"), a glass bottle enclosed in a silicone sleeve. Its narrow glass mouth is amazing to drink from and the silicone sleeve feels great to hold. I want it with me all the time and therefore I am drinking more water! Color: Deep; purchased from Gus & Ruby Letterpress in Portsmouth, NH. 

This handmade noodle bowl from Ocean Fire Pottery was crafted in my hometown of York, Maine by Amy Clark. I've had this bowl for a couple of years now and it has always made me happy. The fact that it is handmade automatically makes it great, but also it's one of my favorite colors and its size and shape fit perfectly in my hands. As you can see from this photo, even a pre-packaged $1.19 grocery store packet of ramen noodles (yes, I splurge for the "pricey" brand!) can be elevated to new heights when enjoyed from a handmade noodle bowl. Bonus: handmade chopsticks made in Kittery!

I have Al James' "Stuff That Gets Used" article to thank for this one (and my husband who reads A Continuous Lean on a regular basis). He clued us in to Bobo's Mountain Sugar wood-fired Vermont maple syrup, whose tagline "A Taste of Tree" is quite accurate. This maple syrup is the best I've ever tasted, and the fact that it's handmade in small batches by a young couple carrying on an ancient tradition makes me love it even more. Dark and robust is where it's at, and this is coming from a girl who grew up thinking Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth's were the real deal (I've come a long way!). If you're confused about the new maple syrup grades, check out this cool maple grade graphic designed by Rumbletree, created for New Hampshire but also applicable to Vermont (but trust me on the dark and robust thing).  

I bought myself a year-long subscription to the Portland Patch Project for Christmas and I am looking forward to a year of surprises in my mailbox. First of all, surprise snail mail! Secondly, a slew of talented local artists from the Portland, Maine area will be designing these sewn patches throughout the year. So far, I have not been disappointed. Pictured here are the January and February patches, plus a bonus lobster patch and authentic 1980s NKOTB trading card (random, but so fun). There was also a great print in the first shipment (not pictured). The website features artist profiles and I can't wait for the March patch (I'm a HUGE fan of Eric Hou's work). Not sure where to sew my patches just yet, but they're making me very happy.

I'm a long-time David Lynch film fan, however I've never seen Twin Peaks in its entirety. I watched the first few episodes about 10 years ago, but couldn't get into it. I finally decided to commit and am immensely enjoying the Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Blu-ray box set, taking care to spread it out and not binge-watch the entire series all at once. I'm watching an episode or two a week and loving it! I haven't started delving into the extra features yet (of which there are a ton) because I'm terribly afraid of spoilers, but I will backtrack and watch them all before winter is through. The packaging of the box set alone makes me super happy and each episode feels like a new gift to be unwrapped.

Speaking of unwrapping gifts with amazing packaging, my sister sent me this incredible box of chocolates from her holiday trip to London. These are from Fortnum & Mason, a department store established in 1707! The box alone is incredible, printed with gold foil and featuring a scenic flora and fauna print under the lid, not to mention the chocolates inside. Of course, I had to geek out and look up the brains behind the packaging design. My photos don't do it justice. 

Disclosure: I have no material relationship to any brand or person mentioned in this post. These endorsements are based on my own personal opinions only and are not sponsored in any way.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Look Back & A Look Ahead

First thing's first: happy new year and THANK YOU! Thank you for following along in my creative adventures, whether we know one another in person or just online. I'm so lucky to have friends, fans and followers interested in what I do. Lofted Designs started out as a personal hobby eight years ago, and I am constantly amazed by and grateful for the number of people who enjoy my work.

Looking Back
2014 was a year of many milestones for this little jewelry company:
  • Lofted Designs surpassed the 700-sale mark on Etsy!
  • My work had more than 17,000 views on Etsy from all over the world (93 countries)!
  • I shipped more than 135 orders all over the US and the world – not a record-setting year, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. 
  • The fewest craft fairs ever – I only participated in three shows this year and none more than 10 miles from my house. This was a risky move, but I loved the shows I did and didn't miss the rest! It all worked out. 

Each year, I donate a portion of profits to some of my favorite organizations and 2014 was no exception. For the first time, I decided to align specific products with non-profits. 

The ever-popular sterling silver Wanderlust Earrings (both the original and the new hammered style) raised funds for Hostelling International USA, an organization that made a huge impact on me when I was younger. Founded in 1934, HI promotes international understanding of the world and its people through travel. They currently operate a network of over 50 hostels across the US, each offering a unique, inexpensive, safe and clean experience.

A percentage of profits from the sale of my new running necklaces was donated to Girls on the Run, a transformational physical activity-based youth development program for girls in 3rd-8th grade. The organization teaches life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k running event. The goal is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.

My beagle Sandy is my only child, and so naturally I believe beagles are the best dogs ever. Beagles of New England States (B.O.N.E.S.) was founded in 2003 with a mission to rescue, rehome, spay/neuter, and provide necessary medical care to beagles in need in New England. This is an all-volunteer organization doing amazing work every day! I especially love their Sensational Seniors program which helps find loving homes for beagles in need over the age of 10. With your help, Lofted Designs pet tag sales helped fund a generous donation this year!

The remainder of donations went to the Center for Grieving Children, based in Portland, Maine. This wonderful organization provides free bereavement support and crisis response to children, teens, young adults and their families and has been doing so for 27 years. They encourage the safe expression of grief and loss and foster each individual’s resilience and emotional well-being.

Looking Ahead

As we flip the calendar to 2015, I am energized by the concept of a fresh, new start and a clean slate. I've decided to take Lofted Designs in a slightly different direction this year, but more on that in a future blog post (coming soon).