Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review not 2014

We often look back on the year that's just passed and reflect on what we've done. But I thought I'd do something different and look back on what I didn't do.

I did not learn to speak Russian in spite of this snazzy outfit.


I did not jump off the Eiffel Tower.

April (in Paris)

I didn't get a part in a burlesque act because I am too shy and retiring, and easily embarrassed.


I did not botch Operation Spygirl.


I did not eat a goldfish (he was hiding from me).

May again

I did not blog much for several months.

I did not spend every day in color.


And I did not let fame and outrageous wealth corrupt me after my appearance in  VOGOFF.

I also did not forget how lovely my blogging friends are, even though I have been AWOL and less active in the blogosphere. I hope 2015 brings us all good fortune and grace, happiness and joy, and maybe a blogger meet-up or two!

Happy New Year!!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dust in the Fridge, Sparkles on the Bag

I went on a big ol' cleaning spree yesterday - kitchen, bathroom, cabinets, floors, roof, chimney, subconscious. Today my back is very sore. That should teach me to just hire a maid and then sit back and drink gimlets.

I cleaned out the fridge - not fanatically, but I did wipe all the shelves in the fridge and the freezer. I even wiped the lower shelves on the door, which don't see much use, and therefore, they had collected dust. Dust! INSIDE the fridge!? How does that happen? I was so disgusted I threw in the towel. But it landed in the butter, and then I had to wash the towel - and all the other laundry - so my work was far from finished.

Today I'm doing nothing physical. I'm spending a day on the computer researching how to put watermarks on my photos (done), how to set up a web page in WordPress (for a project Mr. S and I will be working on soon), and how to put one of Mr. S's books in CreateSpace for print-on-demand. I think his children's book might sell a bit more in hard copy.

And I'm also taking snaps of my sparkly purse to link up with SpyGirl's 52 Pick-me-up - Bejeweled.

This gorgeous bag of bling was a gift from my lovely stepdaughter a few years ago, and I don't use it often enough. I worry that the sequins and beads will start to fall off, but so what? I should use it and enjoy it, and resew when necessary.

The bag has two faces.

It's my Janus bag, which is perfect for the end of the year, looking to the future and to the past.

Happy Sparkly Days to you all!


PS added on Dec. 29 - I'm linking up with the lovely goddess Patti at Visible Monday!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Glasses - New Face - New Hair

I got my new glasses from Firmoo, and I'll give you the full review in a mo'.

New glasses mean a whole new face, and a whole new face requires a new haircut. So I channeled my inner beatnik (and made good on my vow to copy Becky's hair) and did blunt cut bangs.

Now, about the glasses, which were supplied by Firmoo in exchange for my review. You've probably seen reviews on other blogs - good reviews. I was skeptical because I wear progressive lenses and wasn't sure how they could get that right. Well, they did! I wore these right out of the case. I might go to my optometrist to get a tiny adjustment on one side to fit my crooked ears, but the lenses are absolutely correct.

The trick is in the pupils. When you enter your prescription on Firmoo's site, you also enter your pupillary distance (PD - if it's not written on your prescription, get a ruler with millimeters and have someone measure it for you).

How did I select my frames? That was fun! I uploaded a photo of myself without glasses, and then I could "try on" various frames virtually to see how they look.

There were other frames I liked better than the ones I got, but for progressive lenses they need to be a certain height. The specifications for each frame will tell you if they'll work with progressives or not.

Since the offer from Firmoo was for single-vision lenses, I paid for the progressives myself. It was only $36.95. I can't remember the price listed for the frame, but single-vision eyeglasses range from $19 to $56. The lenses are processed with anti-radiation and UV coatings, and the thin grind for thick lenses was free (for my Coke-bottle lenses, this makes a difference). I could buy three pairs of Firmoo glasses for what I spent last time I bought specs!

The cheap prices got me wondering about human rights and corporate responsibility. Firmoo is based in China, and I searched online to see if there was any information about the working conditions of their employees or the company's impact on the environment. I didn't find anything, either good or bad.

This is what they came with - a hard case, soft pouch, cleaning cloth, and teensy screwdriver on a keychain - and they were here in less than two weeks.

The frames are very lightweight - I don't know if they're all like this or just this style, but they don't have a metal bar in the temple arms like my other glasses. If you're not usually careful with your specs, these might not hold up well. But for a spare pair at this price, I will definitely buy from Firmoo again - and I'll get snazzier glasses next time. I could have a whole wardrobe of glasses!

But you don't have to take my word for it - get your first pair free and do your own review!


Monday, December 15, 2014

High Tea

Hello, again! And no, my title isn't a play on my last post about the mini opium den.

On Saturday I volunteered to help serve tea at a local historic house, the Shelton-McMurphey-Johnson House (their website seems to be down, but here's a picture of the outside from Wiki Commons).


They do high tea there during the holidays and for some other events as well, and I volunteered to help for a couple of them. Here I am just before our clientele came in.

See the little teacups on the tree? Squee!

Each table setting has a unique, beautiful teacup (I had about three, no four, no five favorites), and no two teapots are alike. We served three courses on tiered trays - first, savory bites and sandwiches, then scones with Devonshire cream and jam, and then dessert with mini cupcakes and cheesecake and truffles, with a different tea for each course. It's a lot of work being a serving wench, but it was fun, and they make extras of everything so we could stuff ourselves in the kitchen.

It's shocking that my ankles are visible, so I'm linking up with Visible Monday before I apply for a job at Downton Abbey.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Come into my smoky little den

Before you get the wrong idea, let me put your mind at ease. I'm talking about an opium den.

Oh, that doesn't put your mind at ease? It might if you pick up the pipe on the table and take a puff...

not a very good photo - too smoky in here

This is a little special order opium den I sent off last week - a little opium den with reading material.

I made the books and the blue jar. The scrolls are made from thin paper that was in a box of Japanese candy.

These are the things on the shelves - books and scrolls, with some real characters and some fake. And I can see now that I probably put the label on the jar upside-down, like I did last time.

Here's the exterior -

chasing the dragon, or is the dragon chasing you?

I've relaunched my Facebook page that used to be called Sparkle Park Designs - now it's Muse Fondue. You can find me and Like me here, if you're so inclined.

And I'm on Pinterest now, too (here) because I needed still more things to do online. I warn you, my Pinterest boards are heavy on altered Altoid tins.

Anyone know how to put the FB and Pinterest buttons on my blog?


Friday, December 5, 2014


I've been thinking of writing about this for a while - my name.

I use Val and Valerie fairly equally, and I don't mind either one. I sometimes think I should be more consistent, though. I used to always introduce myself as Valerie, and I always wrote Valerie, then I would let others decide what they wanted to call me.

My husband ALWAYS refers to me as Val, and introduces me as Val. Friends usually call me Val, and with emails I usually just use Val because it's quicker to type.

But for business I tend to use Valerie, at least initially. This has confused people, though, when they think of me Valerie and then I call them on the phone and say, "This is Val."

So should I always introduce myself as the more formal Valerie?

 Or the casual Val?

Or just keep being arbitrarily schizo?

Another part of my identity is my glasses, which I've worn since I was nine years old (not the same ones, of course, although my first ones were cat-eye, also). 

So I was pleased to be approached by Firmoo, who have worked with many bloggers, to do a review for them. I just ordered my glasses today, and I can't wait to share my new look with you in a couple weeks!

Val, or Valerie

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I've been banished!

Oh, the humiliation, the irritation, the pain-in-the-ass-ness of it all!

My craft cave has been banished to the garage.

I'm still in flux and have only moved the really toxic-smelling stuff so far. Yes, Mr. S had enough with smelling rubber cement, nail polish and Mod Podge, and he asked me to take my atmospheric poisons and move to the garage. I have to agree with him, but damn! This is a little inconvenient. I need a lot more space, and a window, and heat. I'm trying to avoid moving everything so I'm not completely banished - but damn!

I hadn't been doing any crafts for a while, but I got a couple of special orders for Christmas (thank you, Janet and Jane!), so I've been stinking up the place again.

Then I realized I had a few other tins that should be put into the Muse Marketplace, so I've added them now. They're not dioramas, but just decorated tins that you can put other things in.

  • Buddha Box, which was featured on Resin Crafts a couple of years ago. 

  • A cute little tin with polka dots and sparkles on the inside.

  • And a medievalesque box of jewels with a tiny mirror.

These are all listed in the Muse Marketplace, down at the bottom of the page. (I tried to add jumps to make it easier to navigate, but it didn't work.) Order now for Christmas!

Oh, and here's me recently. This is my new profile photo for LinkedIn and all the other sites I've been joining to try to get work.

To those of you in the US, have a Happy Thanksgiving! And to the rest of you, have a happy Thursday!


Saturday, November 15, 2014


How many different YOUs have you been?

Maybe putting a number on it is the wrong way to gauge the endless reinventions we manifest in our lives, sometimes small, sometimes unplanned, sometimes deliberate and huge.

For instance, in my late 30s I went from being a single Seattleite employed in a publishing company to being a wife, stepmother, expat, business owner and video producer. I think I was in shock for a couple of years.

Montacute House, Somerset

Ten years later I became a returning daughter and sister as well as a 40-hour-a-week office worker, while easing my husband through his own shock at being an expat!

my mom and siblings and me

And now that I'm away from office life, I'm sort of in shock again. Being self-employed has its challenges, but as a lifelong grammar geek and now fledgling freelancer, I'm finding myself more interested in work than I have been in years. The work I do is something I enjoy and that comes naturally to me (I know, it's sad that correcting text is my best talent). And I'm networking with interesting people who may need my services as a copy editor some day - like self-published authors - and that's got me thinking about trying to write something more substantial than a blog post. Maybe a short story, or...

the beach at Malibu, 2011

Anyway, my point is - well, I don't really have a point. I'm just thinking about how life evolves and surprises you.

Strangely, although I have more control of my time, I haven't done anything visually creative lately. It's funny how my artistic instincts have been subsumed by starting a business - and worrying about money and health care and retirement. But I think my muse is warming up the fondue pot. I may be ready for blogging again, and I'm finally thinking about making some more of my little dioramas. (If you're looking for unique Christmas gifts, look no further than the Muse Marketplace tab above!)

Or I could take more photos. Or do some sewing, alter some clothes, or paint some shoes.



Friday, October 31, 2014

The Old Bat Rides Again!

Can't resist a chance to wear this shirt:

You may remember this from last year.

The glitter washed out, so I redid it all with actual fabric paint. I don't know if I'll be wearing the cape today, but I will wear the shirt. I wore it to FedEx the other day and got a good laugh from the kid who works there - the "kid" is probably in his late 30s. If I'm gonna be an Old Bat, I've got to play the role.

  • Complain about the music kids listen to today
  • "Kids" will be anyone under 40
  • Say often, "When I was growing up..."
  • Make a slight moan or grunt when I stand up
  • Start long chats with cashiers
  • Drive really slowly, or else a little too fast and erratically
  • Eschew modern technology as much as possible

Are getting into your role for Halloween?


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Creeping up the stairs, carrying my shoes

I'm sorry, I haven't been around much. You see, I've been working late. Yes, every night - you can call my (home) office if you want to. No, that's not lipstick on my collar.

I'm trying to build up my editing business, and that seems to include a whole lotta blog-reading - other kinds of blogs, for publishers, self publishers, editors, marketing, blah blah. And I, um, I've been, um, cruising around on forums and Google groups. Afterwards I'm just spent and don't feel like computering any more, so I haven't been visiting your blogs.

And - boy this is really hard - I may have started up another blog.

I'm sorry, I wasn't planning it! I was drunk, and it just happened. Please forgive me. In fact, if it's not too weird, maybe we can all do something together. Is that too kinky?

from my VOGOFF shoot

Here's the thing - building the business is going slow, so if you or anyone you know is self-publishing, or works for a book publisher, and in need of a copy editor, please think of me! My new blog is here where there's more info about my other life. If you're not into this kind of thing, that's okay - no one's pressuring you.

Let me make it up to you - let's go out and have a good time.

Dexter Lake Club, Sunday Jam with their house band and a roster of drop-in musicians. Let me tell you, the house band and the musicians who come to play here are smokin' hot!

The owner (not in this photo) plays guitar like a rock god, and the other regular guitarist (to the left in this pic) is just as awesome - I may have moaned a little when they started out. The Dexter Lake Club was used in the movie Animal House - the zebra wallpaper is still there!

Well, that was fun! But listen, I need a little space right now. We'll still be friends, but I just need to find out who I am (and earn some money). Then I'll be back - we'll always be together.