Gifts and Reflections

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The year is almost over and it feels like a time for reflection.

My first reflection is – this year sucked balls. And not in the good way. :/

My youngest was cheated out of his final year of competing in track and had his graduation repeatedly postponed. My oldest and I were out of work when schools closed. The pandemic has hit hard and everything has changed.

But not every change was bad.

Yes, my youngest missed competing. I think that bothered me more than it did him. His graduation was postponed several times, but it did eventually happen. Though my oldest and I were out of work, we were lucky that my husband is an essential worker and we avoided much of the financial hardship that many others experienced (and may still be experiencing).

Personally, though the reason was terrible, the ability to slow down and spend more time with my family was a gift. We spend so much time rushing here, there, and everywhere that often what is really important gets shoved to the back burner. This year I have spent more time than ever with my children – and it has been wonderful. No games to rush off to, no practices, nothing to distract us from each other. We have always eaten dinner together, but when the whole world slowed down, it seemed like we suddenly had time (and permission) to slow down and just take a breath.

That was another gift for me this year – I have seen how different my life can be when I am not constantly rushing around, worrying about ‘living my best life’ and trying to be ‘successful.’ I was free to just enjoy whatever made me happy – doing jigsaws, painting minis, and spending time with my loved ones. I imagine it’s somewhat how retirement feels – knowing that you can live without having to kill yourself working.

After this year, my views on how I want to live my life have changed. I have wanted to downsize and minimize for years. But now I have seen how much better my life could be if we weren’t spending all of our time working to afford the house we are rarely in, driving cars we have to work to afford, etc. If having less ‘stuff’ means I can relax and focus on things that mean something to me, that’s what I want to do.

It has given me even greater incentive to become debt-free. My husband and I sat down last night and discussed our financial goals for the new year. Paying off our last few debts is top of the list, of course. We also discussed smaller goals – like saving up for things. We both want new phones – his has a broken screen and mine is his hand-me-down from 4 phones ago. I have been putting money aside for just such things and we are able to outright purchase the phone he wants. That felt really good – being able to say, yes, okay, get the thing – and to pay for it in cash, with no payment plan and all the bs that goes along with them.

So I have set some goals for myself, both long and short term. I am not someone who makes New Year’s Resolutions, but I do have specific goals that I want to achieve in the coming year.

Here’s hoping that 2021 is waaaaaaaay better than 2020. 😀

ToCare Peacock Diamond Painting Review

You may have read that I am currently obsessed with diamond painting. 😛

I hadn’t realized how much I missed cross-stitch until I started diamond painting. I gave up cross-stitch years ago, both because I didn’t have much time and because my carpal tunnel and bad eyesight made it too difficult to get any enjoyment out of it. I’m not quite sure why my diamond painting doesn’t bother my carpal tunnel like cross-stitching, but it doesn’t, so I’m calling it a win.

Because I’m me, once I discovered diamond painting, I had to try everything. All. The. Things. I’ve bought paintings from several different companies so I can compare them and find out which one I like the best. I posted about the first small canvas I bought to try here. It was a small “snack-size” painting, so I could do it quickly while waiting for other purchases to show.

I also bought a pretty peacock painting, although I didn’t realize at the time it was from the same company as the rainbow horse. This canvas was bigger and I wanted to see if the somewhat limited color palette would be something I liked or not. It had 36 different colors, which I thought would be challenging, though it wasn’t as many colors as the wolf painting I did for my eldest.

Peacock Legend
Peacock Canvas

The canvas itself was stiff, with some creases and curling from shipping that I’m still trying to get out. Just putting the drills on helped with some of that.

The drill field was clear and the labels were mostly good, though there were a few symbols that were similar enough it was hard to tell what symbol it was sometimes. Again, something I wanted to see for myself – it was a bit annoying sometimes, but nothing so bad that it kept me from finishing the piece.

The drills themselves were mostly good, with some cupping and some slag. It seemed like I had a lot of trash as I was working, but when I finished, the trash pile wasn’t huge, considering the size of the painting. I also had quite a few drills left after I finished, so I added those to my “extra drills” stash.

Drill Trash
Leftover Drills

I have quite the drill stash going right now, even after only completing 5 paintings. I have drills of all shapes and sizes, though they are mostly round and square leftovers from finished pieces. One of the YouTubers I watch said that there are some online social groups where you can donate your leftovers to people who need them – I may look into that, because it seems silly to keep so many when I likely will never use them for anything. If someone else can use them, that seems like a win-win to me. 😀

The wax from this kit seemed a little better (thicker) than the other kit. I only used about half of it doing the painting. So now I’m arguing with myself over whether or not I should keep it, or just throw the rest away. In fact, I am probably going to order some specialty wax on Etsy, so I should just throw it away. I’m gonna go do that right now.

There. Done. 😛

Halfway there
Finished!

It took me over 30 hours to complete the peacock, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to do with it now that it’s done. I don’t have a good way to make sure that the painting stays flat until I figure out what to do with it.

Although I liked both of the kits from ToCare and they were enjoyable, I don’t know that I will be purchasing anymore from them. Because I can’t find any information on the company, I have no idea how they handle licensing the artwork they use, or even if they do.

I like ordering through Amazon because I know the kits will get here quickly and I can get working. There are others companies on Amazon popping up all the time, so I will likely be trying other ones. I’ve found several new-to-me companies while watching YouTube, so I want to try some of them and see. Next I will be working on the large painting I got from Diamond Art Club. I’ve had to move my workspace because the painting is so big, so we’ll see how long it takes me to complete it.

I’ve already got 5 more paintings waiting for me to open, and 2 more still on the way. (Apparently one of the companies I ordered from on Black Friday is located in Australia, something I didn’t know until the currency exchange charges showed up on my bank account!) So, while I wait for them to arrive, I have plenty to keep me busy. I am debating whether I want to continue talking about diamond painting here, or whether I want to branch off into another blog or possibly a YouTube channel for it. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my time off work, the holidays, and spend a big chunk of it diamond painting!

Planning Ahead

Since we are working remotely through the end of the year, I am trying to use my time at home productively. I bought my 2021 yearly planner a month or so ago and I decided to spend some time putting together the monthly layouts for them.

I went out to one of my favorite free image sites, Pixabay, and found some winter themed images and backgrounds that I liked. I wanted something wintery in blues and whites. I found quite a few options and put them together for my January 2021 monthly spread.

I use the Happy Planner in the big size, because I like having the big blocks of space for writing in what ever I need. I don’t use the weekly spreads that are included, because I like having the month laid out where I can see everything at once. If I use the weekly spreads, I find that I often forget things, because they are not where I can see them. It’s definitely ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for me when it comes to my planner.

It’s a shame, because there are so many cute weekly spreads out there, but it just doesn’t work for me. That’s part of the reason I tried to use a Bullet Journal, because then I could make it work for how I plan. What I found, however, was that I spent so much time agonizing over the BuJo layouts that I never got anything actually planned. 😦

So, back to the pre-printed planners I went. I tried the Happy Planner classic size, but it’s just too small to be comfortable for me. I do use the classic size for my budget planning, and that is working out well. Having the budget planner has definitely helped me keep better track of where we are spending our money, as well as tracking our debt.

Now if I could just get my dang cutting machine to cut, I could move on to February! Grrr.

Making a Plan

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My thoughts are all over the place today, rushing full-spreed through my brain. I also have a migraine, so that makes it so much more fun. :/

Yesterday I was determined to be productive, and I was. I ‘adulted,’ as the kids call it, paying bills, organizing my office, and marking off things on my to-do list. I got so much done I gave myself a reward and diamond painted for a couple of hours.

Today, my motivation is nowhere to be found. I have a whole list of things I ‘should’ do and I don’t ‘feel like doin’ anything,’ as the song says. I do just wanna lay in my bed. Alas, the real world beckons. I have to go into work today. I am already prepping for classes in January, though I still don’t know whether they will be in person or remote. In any event, I need to get the prep done, so into work I will go.

I’ve also been trying to make myself some concrete goals for my online business ideas. I have so many ideas running around in my brain that I end up doing nothing because I can’t figure out where to start. So, I’m going to take some of the advice I give my students and break things up into smaller chunks. That way the task doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I try to set three goals a day for myself when my motivation takes a hike. If I get those three things done, then I can call the day a win. 😛

I’ve had some of my coloring mandalas listed on my Etsy shop. The other day I discovered that I should probably be calling them zendalas instead of mandalas, since I use a lot of zentangles as elements of my designs. I’ve also decided to add a .png and .jpg file to the listings, so that people can add them into Procreate or other apps for coloring. I may at some point sell them as SVG files as well.

I also want to finally add some of my planner stickers to the shop as well. I’m going to be sitting down and designing them for my own planner, so I might as well get double duty out of them and put them for sale as well. So there’s my to-do list for today – work, add files to the mandala listings, and design my monthly planner stickers. I probably won’t get it all done, but at least I have a plan. Even if I don’t get everything done, I will have at least gotten something done. 😀

And since today is Friday, I can look forward to some relaxing time this weekend working on my latest diamond painting project. I’ve only completed one small section so far, but I can already tell it’s going to be a challenge, as the painting is mostly shades of blue and white. If you’re interested, you can find the painting here.

Rainbow Horse – ToCare DP Review

I’m still obsessed with diamond painting. I’ve been searching all the socials trying to find more people to follow who share my newfound obsession. I mentioned in a previous post that I went a little crazy buying kits on Black Friday. I knew it would take those packages a while to get here, so I bought a couple of smaller kits on Amazon just to keep my hands busy. They arrived in just a couple of days, so I broke the smallest one out and got to work.

I want to try out a variety of kits, styles, and companies to see who makes the best product. So far, the kits I’ve purchased on Amazon have been okay, but they are definitely not as high quality as the one Diamond Art Club kit I’ve purchased. To be fair, the kits I’ve ordered on Amazon are much cheaper, so the quality is on par with the cost.

The small canvas I started with was from a company called ToCare. I have no idea what or who this company is, other than they are likely Chinese. Which isn’t surprising, given that most companies, even those in the US, seem to get their supply of diamond drills (the little plastic pieces you place on the canvas) from China. They sell on Amazon, but there’s no info on the company to be found, only their products. Their info also listed a Facebook page, but again, not much beyond a link to their Amazon store and an email address. I tried looking up info on their email address, but they are apparently using an email service (163.com) that is (surprise!) in Chinese, so I’m glad I didn’t have any issues I needed to contact them about. 😛

The kit included this info page, which I am grateful for, because the legend key on the canvas itself was small and hard for my old eyes to read. You can tell that whatever translation service they are using (probably Google) doesn’t do a great job. While I understand the gist, no native English speaker would ask, “Have words for team ToCare?” or say, “We are social.” They misspelled Rainbow as Rainhow, something that spell check should have caught. Also, the Amazon listing says this is a unicorn, not a horse, so I was bit confused when the kit arrived. Although, the picture does match, so my own fault for not realizing there was no horn. 😀

The kit came with the standard items – drill pen, wax, tray, tweezers, and of course, the diamonds and canvas. The kit is $10.98 USD – I get free shipping as a Prime member. I sorted out the diamonds into containers (called kitting up) and got to work. The first day went pretty smooth, although there was a LOT of white. The first day I worked on it was a Sunday, so I made a lot of good progress while my hubby watched football.

I had to work the next couple of days, so I worked in smaller spurts. This canvas was round drills, which was a change, because I’d been working with square drills previously. There was a note at the bottom of the canvas that said, “Please the complete the torn part in time.” I had no idea what this meant until I was searching around on their Amazon page. Apparently, this is another lost in translation thing. Most DP kits come with some kind of cover, either paper or transparent plastic like you see here. This is to protect the adhesive that holds the diamonds while you work, covering the parts that you aren’t working on yet. So the note was meant to advise you to tear off/cut the film cover as you work.

I did have a bit of trouble getting the canvas to lay flat. It is currently still under some heavy books, as I’m hoping the weight will flatten it out, since the diamonds didn’t. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try ironing it. Hoping I don’t have to, since that gets a bit tricky with the diamonds already attached.

The diamond drills themselves were mostly okay, though there was some slag (misshapen pieces). I did have extras left over, which I will add to my stash of extras. Most people keep their leftovers on hand to use in case other kits are missing diamonds or they run out of a color. These are my ‘tic tac’ storage boxes. They work fine, but I upgraded to some different storage that I like much better.

I bought this particular kit because I wanted to try round drills again to see how they compared with the square. The round drills are definitely much more forgiving and easier to move around than the square. However, the square ones cover more of the canvas, which I like better. The round drills leave some of the background exposed and sometimes that means you can see the symbols through the diamonds. I also wanted to try something with bright colors, and this kit certainly fit the bill.

The listing says the canvas is 30cmX40cm, which is 12″X16″. However, keep in mind that this is the size of the entire canvas, not the drill field itself. After measuring, the canvas I received is actually 12 1/4″ X 15 1/2″. The drill field measures 9 1/2″ X 13 1/4″, which is roughly 24.1cmX33.6xm. So it’s a little smaller than usual – with most kits you can subtract about 5cm (~2″) from the size and get a rough estimate of the size of the drill field.

It took me 4 days to complete the canvas, though that is probably only about 8 hours of actual painting time. I’m going to start keeping better track of my painting time, so I can compare them as well as the kits and companies. I’ve created a spreadsheet to track orders, times, and completion dates, so we’ll see how I organized I can keep it. 🙂

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this canvas, as I just bought it to keep busy rather than with a recipient in mind. I have another canvas from this same company which is a peacock. It’s larger than this canvas, and it’s a lot of blue and white, so I’m curious to see how it compares to this kit. I need to get started on it, since I just received notification that two of my Black Friday kits have shipped.

The kits from ToCare are okay, but I’m not sure if I will buy any more from them. The canvas material is stiff and it’s difficult to get the creases out. It’s also somewhat shiny, which made reading the symbol key difficult. The drill quality is ok, but not great. I prefer the paper cover rather than the plastic film, but the adhesive is good. I’m curious to see how the peacock kit compares. I haven’t opened it yet, so maybe I’ll do one of those ‘unboxing’ videos. 😀

Monday Mandala 72

Mandala_72This mandala was another experiment.  Rather than focusing on coloring, I was trying to focus on different design elements – especially the big lotus-type flower in the middle.  I like how it turned out, though I’m not sure the overall style is something that appeals to me enough to pursue it further.