Moving Day

I've moved.

It has nothing to do with Blogger and everything to do with IdyllHands.  It absolutely bugs me that someone else is letting that name sit stagnant here on Blogger and since I discovered that I turned IdyllHands into a WordPress page back in 2007, I thought I might move over there.

It feels nice and homey so far.  Won't you join me?


It's just another 6 letter word

How do you deal with stress?

It's a common question.  You get asked this question in a myriad of settings.  It's common in a job interview, in a meeting with your boss about managing touch situations, your friends ask you this when they are consumed with jealousy because you always just seem to blissfully out of the situation.

However, the answer is not so common.  Depending on who you ask and when you ask, the answer could be one of a million things.  My answer has certainly changed over the years... and thankfully it's changed for the better.  I used to deal with stress by breaking out into hives around 11PM at night.  I first experienced this in elementary school (really, what was so stressful back then?).  I was visiting my grandma in Arkansas and my flight back to the DFW area was cancelled on a Sunday evening.  That would have put me back there Monday morning and GOD FORBID I be late to 5th grade class.

God forbid.

The next few times were throughout high school and college and usually a result of something pretty big being out of my control, much like my flying situation of 5th grade.  Once I graduated from college and took on my first job, I learned to deal with stress in different ways.  Mainly I learned to not let it get the best of me and send me home looking like I've had a serious allergic reaction to something.

As the years have passed, I've noticed that stress hasn't been a problem for me... like... at all.  Something someone mentioned to me this morning made me think about this.  Where has the stress gone?  Did someone take it?  Did it go away?  Why don't I notice it anymore?

Now, don't get my wrong, there are days that are completely off the charts with crazy and I'm left exhausted by 4PM, but I'm not stressed.  Even when it seems like the 1800 people around me are going to revolt at any time because they didn't line up early enough to get a seat to see Elie Weisel, I'm not stressed.  What in the heck happened?

I've been called "the eye of the storm" by a few people at work.  I can't tell you how I do it.  I can't give you any breathing exercises to control the stress.  Heck, I can't even promise you that going home and watching trash tv at the end of the day will help control the stress.

I can only tell you that it doesn't bother me at work like it used to.

Now, when I'm in the passenger seat of some people's car, the stress level is through the roof.  GIVE ME THE WHEEL, people, GIVE ME THE WHEEL.

And I refuse to say this is a control issue :)


Was It the Iced Coffee?

I just spent the last hour and a half sipping on an iced coffee with a coworker talking shop.  Our shop talk of choice this afternoon was classical music.

Yeah, yeah, I know - classical music is so serious.

Or is it.

I really don't think it is.  I think it's passionate.  I think it's intricate.  I think it kisses your ears and sends them on their way full of lust and excitement.

Serious is not what it is at all.

Walton Arts Center just finished its 3rd season of Artosphere this past June.  I'm pretty sure I've talked about it in the past, but it's a HUGE festival celebrating Arts and Nature that spans over the course of a couple of months.  We have dance, speakers, theater, children's activities, folk music, pop music and of course, classical.  As with any event (I take that back, some events don't need any help) there is the constant struggle of how do we reach out to new audiences.

Is a new audience the point of the show?

In the case of Artosphere, it kind of is.  We want the festival to be accessible to the masses.  We want low cost tickets, we want high end entertainment and we want the BEST of the BEST.  The question when it comes to classical is how to we convince people that they want the best of the best.  How do you convince the 25 year old video game illustrator that he/she must come listen to this:

Okay, okay, so that's easy to get people to come listen to.  But what about getting people to sit and listen to this: 

That isn't as simple.  In fact, it might take some work.  Heading into this meeting today, I wasn't sure what I could contribute.  I'm one of those people who used to eat, breathe and sleep classical music... but I've strayed.  I've strayed so far away that the extent of my classical music enjoyment as of lately has been via soundtrack for a movie or videos I find interesting on YouTube. 

I've just... lost interest.

Those words alone are enough to make me turn inside out.  When did this happen?  When did I quit wanting to attend every classical music concert I could get to?  After today's discussion, I'm quite certain it was after I quit learning about it.  I left the classroom and the music left me.  How did I come to this brilliant conclusion?  It was probably the 70 minutes discussing how it's education that will bring the masses in.  I'm not talking about high end, text book, put you to sleep education.  I'm talking about real, honest, and meaningful discussions about the music.

What made that composer tick?

Which piece's debut had the audience rioting out into the Parisian streets?

Which composer had a thing for his bassoon student and therefor wrote more bassoon music than is ever necessary?  (It was Vivaldi, by the way, I'll give you that one).

These points are interesting.  The answers might intrigue you.  At least, our hope is that it turns someone else back on in the way that just talking about them turned me on.  We didn't just talk education, we talked about intrigue, about drum beats and about new communities.  The conversation was fulfilling.

This conversation was exactly what I needed on this Monday.  I might also say with confidence that the iced coffee wasn't too far from necessary either.


Like a Chicken With Its Head Cut Off

I'm sure most of you have heard about working smarter, not harder.  Usually when I hear it, I follow it up with "yeah, yeah... easy to say".  In reality, I'm constantly looking for ways to be more efficient in my daily activities.  If I make things smooth for my team, the easier my job is.

Notice I didn't say "if I make things smooth for me".

The more difficult the challenge, the more I like the job.  I like puzzles, I like piecing things together, and I love it when someone throws me a curve ball mid-stream.  I thrive on that environment, however, not everyone does.  There are a small handful of people in my office who's jobs it is to take a jumbled mess of a puzzle and lay it out so that our team can come in and complete it without losing their minds.  I love that and if it were already laid out for me, I would have probably grown bored with things years ago.

Let's pause for a moment to give me a chance to say that I DO not like this atmosphere in my personal life.  I like order, I like ease and I like smooth the moment I step foot in my front door.  It would be easy to pull out the pocket psychologist and retort that this is clearly a result of constantly using brain things while in the office, but that just isn't true.  I've always preferred a calm home and I haven't always worked in crazy town.

Crazy in the office gives me something to solve, crazy in a home causes me to break down.

I've thought about this a lot lately, especially as I start to face a time in my career where I'll start to see a huge shift from daily front line activity to more of a planning from a birds eye view role.  Why do I love the chaos I work with at work but hate it at home?  Is it because I like the outcome at work?  Recognition?  Realization of a job well done?  An entire team working harmoniously because I've helped them to bring order to things?  At home, who sees that?  The Schmoo Cat?  The Sweet Boy who already tells me how wonderful I am on a regular basis?  I'm not sure.

Perhaps it's a classic "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound" situation.

What are some areas in your life that are as different as night and day but you thrive well in both scenarios?  I'd love to hear what make all of my readers tick.

The Thrill of the Hunt

I felt it was time to change gears for a bit.  I've been blogging so often about my professional life, that this blog seems to have taken a turn for the paycheck chat.  Don't be fooled, there is so much more to me than my 8-5 (and those of you who know me know it's more like an 8:23 - whatevertimeofnightIgetoutofhere:00).  I used to blog ALL OF THE TIME about crafting and gardening.  At least, that's how I remember it.  I'd have to go back and see if that is really the case.  I'd like to get back to a me who has the energy and inspiration each night to download what's living in my head and make it fun.

I'll start with this post.

I know that shopping for vintage items at thrift stores is equivalent to putting a bird on it as far as trendy goes.  I care not.  If enjoy something, I do it (and yes, I love people who put birds on it!).  I've always had a thing for flea markets.  When I lived in Austin, I was in a mecca for cool, hip, funky things and those things usually came with a hefty price tag.  It was Austin, after all.  Cheap isn't something that city is familiar with.  However, it wasn't until I moved to NWArkansas that I learned that it isn't the flea market you need to spend your time at, it was the thrift store.

Thrift stores are usually home to LOADS and LOADS of junk someone dropped off after cleaning out their garage.  I've even found a creepy prosthetic that had seen better days in the 1960s at one of these shops.  Keep your eyes open, though, and you can find treasures.  Thrifting isn't for the faint of heart.  Thrifting takes stamina, good shoes and loads of iced coffee.  You have to use your poker face or risk someone following you around if you look too excited about everything you find.  It takes not being squimish to touch someone else's clothes/kitchen goods/sheets. 

Thrifting is work.

Hard work.

But it usually results in some great treasures.  Take that scale in the picture above.  The last one I found up for auction online went for $59 and the condition was no where near to that above.  I found mine for $5 at a garage sale.  And no, it's not a repro, it's the real deal.  And that McCoy cookie jar, just $13 at Salvation Army. 

I'm not sure what I love more, the object or the REALLY great deal I found.  Maybe it's a combination of both.  Maybe that is what makes thrifing so dang exciting.

Maybe that's what makes it so dang addictive.

My name is Erin, and I have a thrifting problem (but at least my sister - she blogs here - has a bigger problem - she buys all the things!  No really, she finds the most AMAZING treasures for next to nothing... I get jealous).


Florida, It's Been Real

The conference is winding down. The last sessions have been held, I exchanged my last business card this evening and the swag has been packed. It's always bittersweet at the end. I'm very ready to get back home to the Sweet Boy and the Schmoo Cat but am very sad to be leaving friends.

So much has happened over the past year that I owe almost entirely to my involvement in IAVM. I was talking to a couple of long time IAVM members at lunch today about my speech I gave at the New Member orientation. The speech wasn't much different than the one I gave last year. Well, it was way different since I kind of made it up as I went along, but the main point was the same.

You absolutely need to try this crazy thing called a conference out more than once.

Heck, while you're at it, go ahead and sign up for membership in the organization too. You'll thank me later for that advice, I promise.

I said that last year. I preached on about how your first year is the time to study the map and make sure you know where you're going. Your second year is when you start heading down the path. It's the time between your second and third year when you start taking the back roads and scenic routes.

It's the scenic routes that take you by the most amazing places.

It is because of my involvement in IAVM that lead me to meet a very important mentor. She is a mentor I needed desperately at that point in my career. It is also involvement that lead to my participation during the past Superbowl that lead me to meet some very awesome individuals. Individuals that might lead to new opportunities some day, new experiences and new lessons learned. It is because of my involvement in IAVM that I discovered Venue Manager School and attended on scholarship. That is an opportunity I'm not sure I would have received other wise.

All of this is because I came back. I can't imagine a world in which I found something else after trying these shoes on only once.

I suppose I don't want to imagine that world.


Soaking It In

Today was proof of one thing and one thing only (okay, maybe a few things, but one IMPORTANT thing) - you really never know what you might take away from a day at a conference. Today seemed fairly mild according to the schedule. I'd spend half of the day chasing around partners in the trade show. I expected to talk about tents, flooring, chairs more awesome than any other chairs I've ever seen and event management software. I expected to be intrigued by Frank Abagnale (even if I think I will still pretend he looks like Mr. Dicaprio in real life). I expected to end the day with a swollen left foot because after all, what is a day on my feet without going to bed with a mongoloid left foot? I did not expect to wag my finger at myself with a disapproving look. You know the look, it's the kind you get from your best friend when you've actually managed to disappoint him/her (which is hard to do, right, because they are your bestie). Yeah, that kind of look.

I attended a Women in Leadership session today. It dealt heavily with the topic of self doubt (well, that's not what the speaker called it, but that's how I'll explain it for simplicity's sake). I'm talking about the ugly creature that lives in the back of your head telling you things like "Oh, lucky you being in the right place at the right time and getting that awesome opportunity/promotion/raise/project" or "It won't be long until my boss figures out that I am TOTALLY the wrong person for the job even though I've been doing it for 8 years" or "I think I'll just go ahead and let someone else do it, they are probably better equipped for it than I am". Ugly, ugly stuff, people.

At first, I thought that wasn't me at all. I'm confident. I'm smart. I'm pretty. Dammit, I know what I'm doing and that is more than I can say for some people. Oh yeah, and I'm modest! (see what I did there... it's called being ironic... or something like that). However, I stepped back for a moment and realized that it was me. It was so much me that I was ashamed of years of being that person.

There is one way, and one way only that I am that person on a regular basis. When people ask how I got into my industry, I almost always say "I fell into it, I guess. The job just happened to be open when I was looking and it was in a small market".


Why on earth do I tell people that?

Had I not been EXACTLY the right person for the job, I wouldn't be where I am today. Heck, I'd probably have already gone back to school for a grad degree and be in a completely different field.

Everytime I say that, I'm cutting myself down. I should sing my praises. People ask me about how I got my start in venue management because they are interested. I should indulge them, not downplay it. I should represent myself as the fabulous person I am. I should show my true self, not the self conscience, mousey person I make myself out to be.

So that is my goal tomorrow. When asked about my past, I'll stand up and explain how awesome my first job was and how my skills and qualifications got me that first job. And I promise to be humble about it. After all, I'm not looking to be a braggart, just to give myself my due.

I would have to say I soaked a great deal in today.


Machismo part 2

I'm sunburned. I'm also convinced that the sun in Florida is closer to the earth than the sun in Arkansas. It's quite the trick, but somehow, the sun has pulled it off.

I paid attention very closely to every detail of today trying to pull out snippets that would result in an entertaining and well thought out blogpost. I did this so well, in fact, that I'm pretty sure I could give you a replay of each moment from the time I enjoyed lump crab under a poached egg for breakfast until the time that I nearly smacked a loud and obnoxious guy riding behind me on the bus leaving the Ticketmaster party.


So quit complaining about the 2 blocks you'll have to walk to get to your hotel.

You're making Americans sound even more lazy than we're already perceived to be.

And if said guy is reading this post, oh well. I still stand by my statement.

As the day wore on, I was worried I wouldn't come up with a winning topic, but then it happened. It happened right on the floor in the middle of the trade show opening reception. A colleague said "There is just so much machismo in here... you know what I mean?". I turned to him and said "And that is EXACTLY how I found out how wonderful this organization is".

If you remember back to my post a year ago about being a wallflower, then you might remember I said something about how I couldn't find a group to join at a reception. Lots of men... lots of older men... lots of pleated pants. It just wasn't my scene, or so I thought.
I was almost beside myself when I heard this right out of the mouth of someone new to this organization tonight. Part of me was excited to go on and on about how it might seem like that on the outside, but really, it isn't like that at all. But part of me had to take a step back and think about how to solve this.

I brought my colleague along from my venue. It's his first time at Venue Connect... well... first time at a venue management industry conference at all. I had been introducing him to people all day. Some young, some retired but all of them a vault of valuable information. How can I help him to see beyond his first impression and see what I see? Can I change his perception or is he going to have to do that on his own. I suppose I had help doing this myself, but it was my spark that changed my view. What will his spark be?

I desperately want him to find it. I want him to experience what I do each time I attend an event like this. Maybe it will be tomorrow at the keynote session, maybe in a session about budget cuts and how to deal with them or maybe it will be over a drink at the after hours reception on the top floor of our hotel. I suppose where everyone finds it is different... or does everyone even find it?

*look of horror* I don't even want to think about that. Sad.

In other news, I had to do an impromptu speech today. I thought the person asking me to go up in front of the room to talk about why returning to this conference after your first year is important was joking, but I could tell by looking at her she wasn't. I made this speech last year, but it was written out and rehearsed. This year was unexpected, and thanks to some bad weather in Dallas causing delayed flights, desperately needed.

So I talked.

And I wasn't nervous.

I'm still not sure who this Erin is, but I like her. Oh I like her a lot.


Salamanders and the Macarena

After what felt like an entire day of travel (isn't that the case for any trip out of a small airport town?) I finally made it to sunny and humid southern Florida. I haven't been here since 1999 and judging by the pictures taken on that trip, it wasn't as humid then. Although, it was in May, not July, so that might make a difference.

I was also 18 then. Maybe hair on an 18 year old flows perfectly and doesn't poof up. It was effortless to be perfect fresh out of high school. The older I get, the more work I have to put into such a task.

I would like to bring up a couple of nice welcoming touches that Ft. Lauderdale prepared for me. The first was the baggage claim at the airport. This wasn't just any baggage claim, this one came with a special treat. You know how most baggage claims warn you to start paying attention and get off of the luggage belt/track with what seems like the most startling alarm system known to man? Usually they come equipped with an alarm that rivals any tsunami warning alarm I've heard of (which isn't many... but I know they exist and I'm sure they prove to be effective). Not this claim. This claim came with the...

wait for it...

MACARENA!!! Did I hear that right? I'm sure I did. The person I'm here with thought the same thing. Two smart people can't be wrong, can they? The moment was saved because unlike Jr. High, people didn't break out into synchronized arm movements ending with a quarter jump to your right.

Had that happened, the charm would have been lost and this post would have a different tone. Instead people just went on about their bag waiting business. Actually, not one single person seems phased by it. Maybe they were used to it.

The 2nd welcoming touch that goes above and beyond the usual touches is my new room pet, a salamander. Yes, one of those creepy, practically see through, kind of slick looking lizard like things. It crawls on the wall of my hotel room and hides behind a decorative mirror. I think I'm as leary of it as it is of me. I'm not as happy with this touch, but it's certainly unique. Hopefully it will be gone by tomorrow.

It kind of creeps me out.

Or grosses me out.

Either way, I'd be happy to see it pack it's salamander bags and head on out.

I've been thinking a lot about what I want to take away from this year's conference. I have a different perspective going into this than I did a year ago. A year ago I was unsure, nervous and completely apprehensive. This year I'm not. Actually, there isn't one ounce of those other things this year. This year I'm feeling good about where I am, where I'm headed, what I've learned, who I know and how I need to get there. I really feel as though I have my stuff together. So with that, what am I looking for this year?

I have some guesses... I suppose only the next few days will tell me what it is I'm here to learn this time around. Whatever it is, I'm sure it will blow my socks off in the same way they were blown off last year. I'm always amazed by that.


Testing 1, 2, 3

This post won't be long, but I thought a test was in order. When I travel, I often take almost every modern, electronic I own. Let's see, I have my iPhone, my iPad and my laptop.

Now wait, before you judge me and my over abundance of electronics in my carry on, allow me to explain.The phone is obvious. I don't need to defend that. The iPad is almost obvious. It's great for note taking and staying connected to work at conferences (I don't take it on personal travel). The laptop is taken only to blog. Yep. I tote that heavy thing around just so I can keep the masses updated with my daily activity when away from the office and/or studio. Seems silly, but I adore blogging when away from home.

 It seems I'm only inspired when on the road.

We'll save that topic for another post and after we've all had a few drinks... it's a doozie.

I'll be heading out to IAVM's Venue Connect on Friday. I think having a place to compile my thoughts at the end of the day is important. However, I do not look forward to packing up the laptop yet again and hitting the road. Enter the bluetooth keyboard. Why have I not considered this before yesterday? All it took was a trip to the local electronics big box store and a a small handful of moolah and the keyboard was mine. Good bye traveling with a laptop and hello iPad with a cute, wireless keyboard.

I feel so with it.

So please, check back in this week as I'll be blogging from sunny (hopefully the weather reports showing scary clouds of doom are wrong) Florida avout this year's Venue Connect and what I'll take away from it. I'm sure to be funny and, depending on the amount of sleep I'll get each night, I'm sure to be on top of this.

Update: It seems that to add pictures from Instagram I have to download an app on my phone that isn't formatted for iPad (thanks, Blogger) and add pictures there. This might pose some inconvenience... but I'll make do.

Update number 2:  It also seems that posting from the iPad makes these posts completely obnoxious in that their paragraph formatting is OUT the window.  This frustrates me.  But it's 5PM the day before I leave for a conference so maybe it's the 1002 things I've left to do that frustrate me.  I'll do another test tonight before I decide to pack up the laptop and lug it to Florida.


Words Escape Me or my Brain Won't Function

How is it that I can be SO full of ideas and things to share when I'm away at a conference or at school (it's weird to say school, makes me feel like I'm 17 again) but when I return home I have nothing, absolutely nothing to say.

Really, I have nothing.

And I'm hungry.

And people in Fayetteville can't drive today.

That is all, I just thought I would update so you'll know I'm alive and at least considering blogging.


West By God Virginia

Good Gravy!  I see that some of you have left some amazing replies to my post yesterday.  It helps me more than you could know to get some insight from those removed from the situation.  Sometimes just living the frustration from day to day can bog you down and it takes words coming from someone else's mouth to help point you in the right direction.  I have some amazing blog readers!

I don't have any insightful professional topics to write about tonight.  Actually, I'm a liar.  I had an entire blog post written out about false perceptions vs. real reality, but it got wordy, I had trouble making a point, and I just didn't like it.

So I hit delete... quite a few times, in fact.

I'd really just like to tell you about the fabulous time I had in West By God Virginia today.

This afternoon was left class free so that VMS students could go on a tour, or ride a horse, or play some golf (or maybe take a nap).  Based on the recommendation by a 2nd year student, I signed up to go on the Wheeling tour.  The tour would take us around town and to the Capital Theatre and West Banco Arena. 

Little did I know how INTERSTING that tour would be.

Venues aside (both were lovely, the theater being my favorite, I am partial after all), I absolutely became enamored by the history of Wheeling.  I had no idea it existed before hearing about VMS, but wow, what a history. 

How about a summary?  Here goes:
  • Locals call it the real gateway to the West.  After hearing why, I might agree.  Sorry St. Louis.
  • Wheeling had filtered city water pumped to their houses 3 years before Manhattan.  Take that NYC!
  • The National Road runs right through the heart of town.
  • It's home to the oldest, functioning suspension bridge in the US.
  • Someone said the steam boat was invented here, but really I just think a TON were manufactured here.
  • It was the first capital of West Virginia (the only state to be formed during the Civil War.
  • Loads of rich people build loads of awesome houses during the 8 decades of the Victorian era.  You can buy some of those now for a song.
  • The Capital Theatre used to have a swimming pool and a bowling alley under the theater.  It was planned for it to also house a 7 story hotel on top.  The hotel never happen, neither did the pool.  The bowling alley was donated to a penitentiary in the 1970s.  However, the theater is still there and it's GORGEOUS.
  • Brad Paisley and John Corbett are both from Wheeling.  I'm "meh" about Brad, but wouldn't mind being pals with John Corbett.
So there you have it, Wheeling in a quick, very quick, bullet point list.  If you're ever up this way, check it out.  It's really a lovely place.

If I've piqued your interest a bit, you can read all about it here: http://wheeling.weirton.lib.wv.us/history.htm


This post brought to you by LMFAO

No thanks to a local Hibachi restaurant, I've got this song stuck in my head:

Now there, you can share in my joy.  Everyday they be shufflin... true story.

I'm sorry to report that I didn't volunteer to campaign for President of the United States or anything like that today.  I'm sure you were fully expecting some shocking announcement since I mastered the art of fake press conferences yesterday (and if you actually believe I mastered the art, then maybe I should run for President).

I'd like to talk a bit tonight about changing the focus of those you work with (and let's be honest, changing your focus right along with them).  I've been hearing a lot about "X has to be your focus" or "you must focus your team on X" or "If you lose sight of X, then doom and gloom doom and gloom".  Every time this comes up, I quit taking notes to look around the room.  Does anyone look as hopeless as I do?  No.  Either they all have great poker faces or they're doing it right! 

I'm positive I'm not alone here, but why does no one else look frustrated when this comes up?  How on earth do I go back to my venue and get my coworkers to refocus on what is important?  I was going to avoid this topic all together.  It's going to come out sounding like I work with a team that doesn't like their job. On the contrary.  I work with a team that ADORES what they do and works endless hours to get it done.  However, and probably due to those endless hours, when you bring up a new event, I almost always get an "ugh" from the back of the meeting room.  If I'm real lucky, I get a visitor in my office to ask who's idea it was to do yet another activity this year.  Those conversations are only mildly uncomfortable - especially when it was MY idea.

Guess what?  I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  WE'RE IN THE ENTERTAINMENT BIZ, of course we're going to do one more activity this year.  Heck, we might even to 23.  Get over it.  We're a theater.  We own and Amphitheater.  We have partnered with some groups to do a concert series in Little Rock.  Presenting events/concerts/theater/activities/whatever is absolutely, 100% what we are here to do.

I know this.  Deep down, I know the "ugh" happy coworkers know this.  However, our focus seems to be on doing what ever we can to get through the day/week/month/season rather than on doing what we can to make the next event the absolute best thing we've ever laid our hands on.  I know why this is, but I don't know how to change it.  I want to thrive in a culture where people are perked up when they hear another concert has been booked.  Heck, I want to be that person.  I can't wave a magic wand changing everyone's frame of mind and I can't press their reset button. 

I'm not sure my team is one that thrives off of a motivational speech, or nifty acronyms printed on posters or star service awards.  So what is it that motivates them?  What is the spark they need to get excited?  What is that one thing I can do that plants the seed in them that is planted in me each and every time I'm around the industry professionals I'm around this week?  

I'm at a loss here.  I can usually come up with a solution, but I'm drawing blanks.  What would you do in this situation?

And why does this topic suck the funny, witty breath right out of me?  I'm guessing because it's something that I have deep, very deep concern for.  It's a real problem.  Surely there is a real solution.

A Girl and her fake press conference

Today was a bit of a mismatch.  Like yesterday, I met what seemed like 100s of people (but it wasn't quite that many) and learned that VMS instructors like to make people laugh... especially the ones from Melbourne (as in Australia... Down Under... home of Crocodile Dundee... yeah, that place).  In an effort to concentrate my thoughts into a specific area, I wrote down a few blog topics that came to me through out the day. 

They are (in no particular order):
  • Why do you work in this industry if you don't like working events?
  • Why do you work in this industry if you're going to complain about me booking a show?
  • Why do you work in this industry if you can't even remember we're presenting Bon Iver in Little Rock tonight?
  • Why do you... 

wait, see the trend?  None of it positive.  I think I blogged a couple of years ago about being positive, so I better stick to it, right?

The more I heard today, the more the thoughts above ran through my head.  But how do I blog about that without hurting someone's feelings or making a few enemies?

I don't.  I blog about fake press conferences instead. 

One of my courses today was Media Relations.  We talked briefly about how we, as a venue, are beneficial to media and vice versa (I know, what a concept).  However, the main point of the course was media relations in a time of crisis.  After a quick exercise introducing the class to a made up tragedy, I found myself volunteering to represent said venue in a press conference.

Wait, back up here, did I really raise my hand for that?  The instructor wanted someone who wasn't good at it.  I've never done it, so I fit the bill, I suppose.  But why on earth did I raise my hand?

Someone must have slipped me something in my lemonade at lunch.

After a few minutes to myself to prepare, I stood in front of my peers (a lot of them), a camera, a microphone and a sea of hands ready to ask VERY difficult questions.  Guys, I have to tell you, fake press conferences regarding a death at your venue is tough stuff.  I found myself getting frustrated with the questions.  "What do you mean you don't know what a mosh pit is?" is not a good response to a fake reporters question and thankfully those words didn't fall out of my mouth.  Neither is "Maybe the kid was in over his head and shouldn't have been in the mosh pit, in fact, no one should go to mosh pits.  I learned my lesson at Rock Fest 1996 - mosh pits are dangerous and I blame his testosterone for doing a dumb thing in the first place".  Yes, that answer ran through my head.  To fan the flames a bit, we had to watch it all over again on video.  Yay.

Yay me.

Yay me for volunteering.

I think my volunteering to do that was the single most important thing I did today.  Had I watched someone else do it, I wouldn't have learned what I did while doing it.  I was critiqued, dissected, and thrown into the oreo method a bit (you know, good - bad - good), but most importantly, I learned exactly what I did wrong and think I could take on another fake press conference with much more confidence and would better represent my fake venue.

We'll save the real press conference for another time!

Someone remind me that just last year I was a wallflower and perhaps I should slow down a bit.  No need to jump into the deep end.

Actually, the deep end is kind of fun.  Maybe I'll stay in for a while... but can someone please pass me the life vest.  A little help never hurt anyone.


Greetings from West Virginia

It was many hours ago when my alarm went off at 4:00am and during that time I flew to Chicago, then to Pittsburgh, drove to West Virginia, ate at an old school Dairy Queen, set food in a Kroger for the first time since 1999, met a TON of people, exchanged many business cards, was gifted a can of Skyline Chili and drank one too many drinks (you know, the ones that require drink tickets or bar tabs).  It's been a long day and I preface my blog post with this info so you can go ahead and throw judgement out of the window when you get to the end of the post and think "gee, Erin has lost her edge".  Bear with me, it's been a long day.

I'm not really sure what my topic needs to be tonight.  So far I'm having a great time.  I was lucky enough to meet up with a follow classmate in Chicago so we were able to get to know each other a bit over lunch and then even more so on the drive in from the airport.  My old self would have quickly latched on to the opportunity to never leave her side for the entire week.  This new Erin, on the other hand, let her fend for herself (thankfully, she doesn't seem to have the wallflower problem I've been known to struggle with) and met new people and had a great time.

Have I killed off the wall flower completely?  Now wait, before you get on to me for rehashing the wallflower topic, allow me to explain.   I firmly believe that my biggest weakness is my keen ability to play the wallflower.  I'm not good at mingling, meeting, making friends, etc.  It is a HUGE fall back and I loathe (there is that word again) that I haven't been able to shake it in the past.  However, tonight seemed different.  Hands were shook, smiles exchanged, uncontrollable laughter over some region's common and regular use of the world corn hole happened (because really, deep down inside, we're all 8 years old and that was hilarious) and I didn't once feel timid or shy.  The only time I was reminded of my old wallflower ways was when someone in line at the bar said "this is hard... I'm an events person... we aren't outgoing types".

Huh.  That's right.  As I said last year, we're the observers.  We stand on the outside making sure everyone else is having a great time.

So where does that leave me now?

It makes me feel naked.

But in a good way.  And I'll leave you with that.



Blogging when I should be packing

I really should be packing right now.

I even have nice, shiny new luggage to pack in (my old was obviously run over by a Delta plane).

But here I sit, writing up a new blog post.  And before I sat down at my computer, I made some dinner.  And before I made some dinner, I emptied the dishwasher/folded clothes/hung clothes/did everything I don't really need to do and avoided packing.

I'll go ahead and let you in on a little secret... I adore traveling (even if for business) but loathe packing.  There, I said it, I loathe packing.  At least for this business trip I'm not packing a weeks worth of business attire.  Jeans should make this process easier.

I'm heading off to West Virginia tomorrow for the International Association of Venue Managers Venue Management School.  I'm not really sure what to expect.  I've read all of the materials, like a good student, and then started on the review questions.  Then my heart sunk.  Many questions I couldn't answer and I had to go back and reread that section.  Am I that far removed from college that I can't retain text book information as easily as I used to?  Do I need to reinvigorate my brain?  Has the professional world killed my ability to learn?  I suppose it could be any one of those things.  I'm sure I'll be fine, but still, the unknown is always a bit tricky for me.

I fully intend to keep up with blogging while there.  It's always a good plan.  Sometimes it works (as it did last July) and sometimes it fails (anyone remember my trip to NYC in February?  No, probably because I didn't blog much about it).  In order to fully take in this experience, I think writing about it as much as possible is going to be key.  Probably not key for you, but key for me. 

But hey, I know you're just DIEING to hear stories from West Virginia... you just might not know it yet.

Stay tuned... I promise you won't be disappointed.


All Work and No Play...

In case you've been wondering where I've been for the past month, it's either been at work, at work, or at work.  Okay, okay, I kid.  I've been at work, making jewelry, and at work.  Things have stayed quite busy up at the arts center, but it's winding down as summer approaches and I'm looking forward to some down time.

During the past few months, when I had time away from the office, I curled up amongst my collection of pillows and slept.  I can't even explain to you how worn out I have been.  Naps don't allow for creativity (unless you consider the dream department of a creative nature).  Actually, naps really only allow for sleeping which has lead to a VERY unproductive WoolyHands and IdyllHands this spring.  The spinning wheel has sat slumped in the corner, halfway filled with yarn just yearning to be finished (yearning yarn!), my beads have sat on the shelf growing dusty as they go forgotten, my knitting needles have gone by the wayside to make room for paperwork that has been brought home at night.

It has been a sad state of affairs.


something happened last weekend.

I made a necklace.  Actually, I made a few, my favorite of which is pictured above.  I'm not sure what came over me, but I sat down, pulled out tray after tray of beads, and went to work. 

And then something even stranger happened.

I made more today!  What has come over me?  Has the ability to come home in the evening without bringing work with me allowed me to focus my creative efforts elsewhere?  Perhaps.  This happens every year, but each time I act surprised.  It's just part of the cycle, I suppose.  Who knows, perhaps my hiatus from crafty things allows me to come back with a huge BANG when I do get the time.  What if playing all year only lead to stale products.  Gasp!  What kind of world would that be?

A terrible one.

I shudder to even think of that world.

We should erase that world from our memories.

I do need to be honest with you, though, since blogs are meant to be mostly honest (and notice I do say mostly, I'll let you decide where that mostly lies).  I do have a HUGE binder of things I need to read before heading off to West Virginia the first week of June for a bit of schooling.  I just wouldn't be Erin if there wasn't at least one thing I was putting off for one more day.


Triumphant Return

About a year ago (maybe more or less, I honestly can't remember) my sister and I moved our Junque Rethunque booth from the cavernous back side of the flea market to a bright, sunny, corner spot with a window.  We finally put our spin on the booth adding letters to spell out "JUNQUE".  We were quite proud with how it looked.  The Q was large, gold and stood out amongst the smaller black letters.  It did a bit of showing off, winning talent shows and whatnot when we weren't looking.

The other booths apparently were jealous.  Rumors were started about Q that were simply untrue.  No one invited her to dinner or to parties.  This lifestyle sent her on a downward spiral.

Then she disappeared.  Whether she couldn't stand the spotlight any longer or someone plotted her demise, we'll never know.  She never turned up.

The hunt for an new Q was not easy.  Auditions left us with a mediocre crowd of Qs that just didn't fit the role we needed her to play.  Months went by where our booth was just "JUN UE".  The other letters did their best to pick up the slack until we found a new Q, but it wasn't the same around there.

Then, on one unsuspecting Saturday in the back of an overpriced Fort Smith flea market, we found her.  Unappreciated, unloved, and sitting on the floor getting dusty, we knew she was the star we needed.  From the picture above, wouldn't you agree?

It's so nice to be Junque Rethunque again... Jun ue Rethunque didn't have the same ring to it.  Help us celebrate, if you're local, go check out our booth at the Fayetteville Trading Post - we just added tons of new goodies and you wouldn't want to miss out... would you?


It's the simple things...

... like the time to nap when your nose would normally be to the grindstone. It's finding a small treasure buried deep in a pile on the bottom shelf at Goodwill. It's a quiet afternoon with your windows open.

It is the simple things that help you to reset.

After oversleeping my alarm and dozing off while brushing my hair this morning, I decided a sick day was in order. I've spent the last week sniffling my nose, popping my ears, taking Advil for my achy bones, and otherwise not feeling spectacular. I haven't felt "sick" but apparently my body has been working overtime to keep me going. I ended up sleeping 6 more hours throughout the day. I feel like I could go to bed now and still sleep until morning. Sometimes you just need a day away.

After a hearty dinner of BBQ ribs ('cause this Texan doesn't stray too far from the mother ship) I sped off to the nearest Goodwill and then to the 2nd nearest Goodwill. I think the trips were well worth the time and mileage. I found a set of interchangeable knitting needles at one for $5 (this set to be exact). It is missing two of the smaller sizes, but I can replace those. I couldn't let my good thrifting luck go to waste, so off to the 2nd one I went. There I found a sweet pillow case, a handful of vintage mugs for Junque Rethunque and a handful of embroidery hoops. I'm smittin' pretty hard on the large, oval one - aren't you? I have some fabric I want to frame in theLink hoops and hang. That might be a good project for this weekend.

What about you? Any weekend projects already in the works? Who cares if it's only Monday... you have to have something to look forward to.


The Secretest of Road Trips...

... and how I became obsessed with Steam Punk.

In 3 short days (world, don't you dare throw some long days at me because I mentioned that the next three will be short and if you give me one more long day, it's quite possible that I'll disown you for the remainder of the days... which will hopefully stretch beyond December 21, but I digress) I'll be shutting down the work computer, disabling work emails on my phone, and heading off on the secretest of road trips with the Sweet Boy. I'd like to think that keeping the road trip location a secret will allow us to actually escape for some much needed rest and relaxation... and perhaps the consumption of a frosty beverage or two... and maybe head to the zoo and go on a picnic. It is a vacation after all.

The hardest part of a super secret road trip is not checking in on Facebook or Foursquare to any of the cool places we're going. If anything, it will allow me to be more in the moment and less on my phone. I will keep up with words with friends, however, a few of you are going down... and you know who you are!

Other than planning the secretest of road trips, I've been falling in love with all things Steampunk. I've known about the genre for the past few years - actually, maybe longer than that. Thanks to Etsy, no pop-culture genre gets away with coasting under the radar. And yes, I called it pop-culture. I'm sorry if any diehard Steampunk junkies disagree, but it's pop-culture, end of discussion.

Since when have I taken such an interest into the world of cosplay? Walton Arts Center is hosting a Steampunk night while we have Circus Oz in house later this month. Being the type A personality that I am, I never do anything half way. If someone is coming to work wearing a brown trench coat and motorcycle goggles for this one day out of the year, you bet your bottom dollar I'm going to make sure I have the same thing PLUS striped bloomers and a way fabulous laser gun set to "stun them with awesome". Sure, it's all cliche - but knowing me, I'll only be interested in it for a few months, so I can get away with cliche.

Then, it's on to something else.

But I promise you this, I'm going to blow you away with the most awesome Steampunk costume to ever set foot inside of the Walton Arts Center lobby.

Just you wait...

just you wait.


How to start at the beginning

I've been having trouble lately. Trouble finding sleep until the wee hours of the morning. Trouble finding time to read a book. Trouble finding some downtime to just unwind and be myself.

I'm also having trouble pinpointing what it is I want to do tomorrow.

It's the most unsettled I've felt in quite some time... actually, it's probably the most unsettled I've ever felt.

A large, very large, part of me is ready to find my next big step in life. I'm 31 and have been itching to move. I want a change in scenery. I want a change in finances. I want a change in what I do 10-12 hours a day. I recently met with someone to talk about this and left the meeting in tears. I was more confused than I was when I went in to talk.

What scared me was how easy it was to talk me out of wanting a change.

What scared me was how obvious it was to me that I have no earthly idea of what I want.

What scared me was how I don't seem to have any true convictions as to what I want to do next.

So I cried.

After gulp crying (think about it... you know the type) to my sister on the phone for longer than I care to admit, she came up with the idea of me writing a personal mission statement. YES, a mission statement, that was what I needed. A self written road map helping me decide which direction to go on almost every life decision. It's really quite brilliant.

It would be even more brilliant if I could get it started. I've read website after website after blog after website explaining to me what it is and how I should go about starting it. In the end, however (or am I still at the beginning) I'm left not knowing how to start the thing.

So maybe that's my problem... it isn't about defining direction or purpose but about figuring out how to get at the beginning of my trail in life. How do I start the course if I'm not sure where the start is? How do I find the beginning to my next story?

I have to answer that before I take my next step.

I owe it to myself.


Things that make you go zzzzzzzzzz

It should be easy to write about my recent trip to New York City. So many things were seen, toured and experienced while there. As with every time I go there, I had the time of my life.

So, why this heavy case of writers block - or rather, writers block when it comes to conference blogging (as you can see by my words, not everything I want to put down in writing is blocked)?

I could blame it on being tired. I'm worn out. I want to talk about the things I learned and the shows I saw but my brain is beyond exhausted when it comes to talking about work. Actually, I will blame it on that.

I've been meeting myself coming for the past 4 weeks... more so than usual. Sure, we all take work home at night (or do you, I do hope I'm not fooling myself) if we're not already hunkered down in the office until the wee hours of the morning. Sure we all work through lunch only to find your half eaten PB&J stuck in a file folder weeks later (don't deny that you smelled it to make sure it was beyond it's prime). Sure we've all been there, but I've been living what seems like 40 hour days since mid-January.

Now wait, don't get on to me for complaining, that is the last thing I'm doing. I have adored my time over the past few weeks. I've volunteered at the Super Bowl which the thought of still blows my mind. I've been planning a major fundraiser that went off without so much as a hiccup this past weekend and raised quite a bit of money in the process. I've also attended a conference smack dab in the middle of the city that never sleeps. All of which have made my awesome list.

They also have made my 3 ways to leave Erin wanting a nap by 11AM list. I'm tired. I can't talk about work because I'm tired. I can't make dinner that doesn't come from a box because I'm tired. I also can't seem to stay away through an episode of Chopped because I'm tired.

Maybe I'll catch up on rest this weekend... but then again, I've not graced the local thrift stores with my presence in a while and the flea market booth doesn't restock itself (and I can't just let my awesome sister sustain it all of the time, I need to put in my work too).

There is always next weekend... after all.


No time to blog, only time to explore

I'm sorry if I've disappointed anyone. I fully intended on blogging each day while at the conference in NYC, but it seems I've been busy.

NYC is truly one of the most inspiring places. There is so much to see... do... and experience, finding time to download the information while here seems like a waste of precious time in the city. I promise a big, huge, fat post upon my return to Arkansas (and after a few days back in the office).

Until then, enjoy one of my favorite late night stops so far...


It Never Sleeps

Once again I find myself in NYC at the beginning of a conference. As I blogged about recently, it was in NYC a little over a year ago when I had a defining "ah ha" moment. So much has happened since that conference... so many personal changes... so much growth... I can only imagine what this week will bring. I look forward to finding the time each night to download my thoughts and do a bit of blogging (which we all know I'm not very good at when at home - I can't be trusted with continuous blogging).

I can't say that today has provided much more than airport time, plane rides and the most amazing corned beef sandwich in the world (thank you Carnegie Deli, I love you so). It also provided a solid 2 hours of awkward laughs. A colleague and I scored a couple of tickets to Book of Mormon and I'll just say that my seeing it will result in spooky Mormon hell dreams tonight. If I was Catholic I'm sure I'd find myself in church tomorrow morning ready to confess my sin...

my sin was that I laughed, hard, at that musical...

hopefully worse things have happened...

like war... and murder... and clubbing sweet baby seals...

yes, all of those are worse than laughing at the topics that were sung to lively tunes tonight. If you're reading this and thinking that surely it wasn't that bad and perhaps I'm just a prude... go do a search for the song Hasa Diga Eabowai and then come join me in church tomorrow.

One last thought before I sign off for the evening. Champagne glass hot tubs are so 1989. Apparently they are a big thing in NY. I've seen 3 commercials for resorts with those gawdy things in the rooms in the past 20 minutes. Oh NY, I'm embarrassed for you... jealous of your corned beef sandwiches but still embarrassed for you. I'm sure I'll turn a blind eye to your champagne glass hot tubs by the end of the week because you'll blow my mind with awesome, but for now... for now this can't be ignored.


To Remember

Taken at my 18th birthday party - this post goes out to the awesome guy to my right, Tyson.

This has been quite the week. Sometimes I hope for a momentous week and sometimes I prefer the weeks stay unremarkable... this week falls within the latter.

On Thursday morning I spent a couple of hours in our bi-weekly Sr. Team meeting at work. It was fairly tame considering the amount of work we've all be doing lately, but a lot of work issues were on my mind. I sped back to my office after the meeting to quickly get started on another project while I had a few minutes at my desk only to see that I had a handful of texts from a couple of friends down in Texas. The last time this happened was in 2002 and it was a handful of messages on my answering machine to announce the death of a close friend (things have changed in the past 10 years). These texts were very similar - Tyson, a close friend of mine from my Jr. High/High School days, passed away the day before.

Whatever work project that I was about to start was quickly forgotten. My heart instantly turned inside out. This isn't news you expect... ever... let alone when you and your friends are barely into their 30s. I had not seen Tyson for quite some time and only kept up with him on Facebook. I mean, at least we posted on each other's walls for birthdays and marraige congrats and when he announced his twins made it safely into the world. I am afraid, as wonderful as Facebook is, that it has lead to a complacent upkeep of old friends.

Tyson had been a close friend. What started out as the most redonk crush ever (like, could not stop thinking about him and wrote his name on every notebook I had) early in Jr. High, turned into a great friendship before 9th grade was over. He came to my birthday parties, my regular parties (parties were popular back in the 90s), he did a mock strip tease at one of the parties when we were 15 on a dare and then brought it back as the main attraction for my 16th birthday complete with costume (don't worry, we were young, my mom, the party supervisor, was modest, she never let it get further than it needed to). We competed together in lip sync competitions in 9th grade and he, along with his best friend, made my biology class both highly entertaining and extremely stressful (just ask me how i feel about having my tennis shoes tied to my desk over and over again and having to look at rubber bands from braces wrapped around your desk neighbor's tongue while they taunt you when you should be learning about frog dissection... okay, I'll tell you, I hated it although my mom said it was flirting... I didn't buy it).

However, when college came, we went our seperate ways. He attended Texas A&M and I went down to UT.

And that was that.

And now he's gone. My heart hurts for his close friends, for his wife, for their tiny new babies. My heart cries for his family, his mom and his brother.

My heart knows how to react, buy my brain isn't sure how to process this. He's the 3rd guy who I was close to in one way or another that I've lost since graduation. First was Chris, then Ben, now Tyson. Does this happen to everyone? Do we all lose good friends this quickly? It seriously has me considering what it would take to pack up and move south to find a house right next to my best friend. Life is so precious. I know this. Sometimes I forget it but I hate how I'm reminded of it.

In conclusion, I didn't decide to post this to make people sad. I did it as a reminder that one moment can change a life.

Please live yours beautifully.


Who do you work like?

I recently saw a status update on Facebook that went something like this:

Act like a lady, think like a man, work like your boss.

While acting like a lady is something I am constantly trying to do (just ask anyone about my high level of modesty and if you aren't my significant other, sibling or close friend, you won't hear off color comments coming out of my mouth). I think you could go as far as to just act appropriately. Chew your food with your mouth closed, put the smart phone down in meetings, and other similar things that keep those around y0u from wishing you had called in sick that day.

Thinking like a man probably won't get me anywhere. I think like me. Thinking like I do has propelled me pretty far down a path I rather like, so there is no way I'm even going to consider changing the way I think. How does a man think anyway? Who wrote that? It's silly.

Now, working like your boss, that's the golden ticket. It's a pretty fair assumption that your boss likes the way they work. They like their output, they like their style of work and they like what they accomplish. While they don't expect everyone to be like they are (at least, we hope they acknowledge that fact that everyone works differently from one another), they might wish that those around them at least kept up with their speed.

I've used my bosses as models, if you will, of how I need to work. My job might be similar to theirs or vastly different depending on the day of the week, but I want the quality of my work to at least be something they don't have to dwell on. If they aren't dwelling on me at the end of the day, then I'm doing something right. If I work for someone who is the most detailed oriented person I know, then I need to be one step ahead of them and have every single thing figured out before they ever have to involve themselves. If they are the best editor/proof reader in the company, I guarantee you that I'll have 4 people check over my work before I ever submit it to them. If they are one to follow up with me on a project a day after it's assigned, I promise you that I'll have my details and plan laid out the night before.

It's how I work and it works very well for me. It isn't the degree pictured above that has me sitting where I am looking down the path I gaze at every day, it's how I work. I also look beyond my boss for examples to model my work style after. Who have I met within the industry that impress me? What can I take away from each of those encounters? What attributes make up the perfect employee? While I'll never be perfect, I will try my hardest to get there.

I think many times people fall back on their bosses as someone up on a pedestal. These bosses work long hours because they are paid more (ask me about how many LONG hours I worked before I was ever a boss). They have been around longer so they are there to check/correct what you do. It shouldn't be that way. Shouldn't you want your boss to see you as capable of doing it on your own or with your peers? Will you be given more assignments and ladder climbing projects if it means they are going to have to spend more time on your other projects?

Probably not.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I challenge all of you to work more like your boss. My goal this week will be pinpointing new ways to challenge myself to be 2 steps ahead of mine. What is your goal? If you're your own boss, who do you look to for work style inspiration?

Now for my disclaimer. As a boss and as someone who has a great boss, I know that that dynamic makes an excellent team. It isn't a hands off relationship. However, the relationship should be about moving forward and creating some amazing projects, not trying to figure out what went wrong.


Of a crafty nature

All throughout my college years, if I needed something for my apartment, I would run to Target and purchase it. Before you give me a stern, disapproving look, I will say that every piece of furniture/decor item purchased there is still holding up nicely. My tall, cheap, book shelves that I purchased at $33 a piece, still standing (maybe a bit lopsided but still standing). The mission style desk and hutch I used for ages was sold for a nice price at last year's garage sale. The TV cart was used not only for a TV, but also a printer, and later a craft room storage area, and eventually a plant stand also sold for a fair price at last year's garage sale. The candle sticks, the boxes, the baskets, the crap - all still good and most still in use.

However, as I've grown into my adult years and adult style, my eye has grown tired of what fills the shelves of Target (the only thing I still buy there is House and Dexter when new seasons come out on DVD as their new release season prices always beat Walmart and Best Buy). I've found myself wanting to find new uses for old things. There are flea markets, junk shops, barn sales and dumpsters just FULL of useful objects - why on earth are we letting these items go to waste in landfills and back rooms? Let's all breathe new life into these old treasures.

A year ago I found an old farm/utility/wooden basket thingy at a local junk shop. It caught my eye not for the structure so much but rather what was in it. It was full of old, wooden produce baskets that were perfect for displaying my handspun yarn at the local farmers market. $15 later, the small baskets and large wooden one were mine. I happened to stumble across another one out at the family farm as my sister and I were getting ready to put it on the market (that's another story all together). I rescued that one from going back to the land and brought it home with me.Now I had two of these wooden utility basket thingies (anyone know what they are actually called?). I never ended up using the small produce baskets and everything sat in my living room, looking sad and unused. I eventually sold the produce baskets at the Junque Rethunque flea market booth and priced the 2 wooden utility basket thingies to sell as well.

And then they haunted me. For 3 weeks I thought about using those baskets in a creative way to solve 2 problems. 1 - a lack of shelf and display space in my condo and 2 - a lack of pretty things in my bedroom. When the thought of those wooden utility basket thingies selling to someone else was too much to bare, I went up to the booth, rescued them and brought them home with me.

Then they sat in my living room, once again, sad and unloved for almost 2 months (I'm great with coming up with uses for things, but not great on actually putting things to use).

One day during the Christmas break, I decided enough was enough. My bedroom was ugly and I needed something to anchor all of the lovely, vintage touches I had throughout (and old wire book stand, a cute Samsonite train case to old bulky jewelry in, a small wooden stool my grandpa made, a small wire vanity seat, a large Samsonite suitcase that adds the perfect height to our clothes hamper, an antique dresser... you get the idea, I love old). All of my vintage touches sat strewn about with no real purpose. Those wooden utility basket thingies were going to be the anchor.

2 hours, lots of drilling and rearranging, and a bit of sweat later, I had finished the project. 2 wooden utility basket thingies, 4 shelf supports from Hobby Lobby (get them when they are on sale, I think I paid $30 for all four and they make the project) and viola! A lovely new room.

On a side note, I made this necklace hanger before I even moved into this condo but of course, it was never hung until I moved (the story of my life). I found an akwardly wide and short antique frame at the family farm painted silver. A few coats of cream spray paint, some quilt batting and a fat quarter of fabric produced the perfect necklace hanger. My sister gave me some old t-pins and I was set. It looked weird hanging alone, so I painted some other interesting frames the same color and showcased a few, small prints also saved from the family farm. It's a nice collection and doesn't look out of place now that my room makes more sense.


A Sunday

Today has been a rather quiet Sunday. The sun hasn't shown it's bright face for even a moment and the light coming in my windows has been soft and full of secrets. It wasn't a day for running errands, or organizing a closet, or even dusting the shelves.

It was a Sunday for many a moment exploring You Tube for music I've missed out on.

It was a Sunday for a bit of baking.

It was a Sunday for reading magazines and snoozing with the Schmoo Cat at the foot of the bed.

Today has been a rather quiet Sunday. Sometimes you need those quiet days. Plans go out the window and you find yourself doing nothing of note. It is those days that leave me the most relaxed when they are over. It is those days that are far more valuable than a day full of productive adventures.


A return to that strange place

One of my favorite posts from the past year is this one:

It's not my favorite because of the way its written or even where I was posting from (NYC, by the way, I'll post again from there in February, just to rub it in a little). It's my favorite because of the way it makes me feel. I honestly cannot believe it has been a year since I was there at APAP participating in the Emerging Leaders Program. What originally was apprehension about the group of people I was about to meet in the basement of the Sheraton quickly turned into bubbling excitement. The week was a rush, an exhausting rush, but I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.

APAP was the first conference that really made an impact on me. I've always taken something away from conferences and have learned a great deal, but I've never been changed. My time at APAP changed me. It didn't so much point me in a direction or show me the way in my professional pursuit, but it confirmed that I was right where I needed to be.

I'll be up there for a different conference in just a little over a month. I'll be attending the IAVM Performing Arts Managers Conference (I'll probably refer to it as IAVM PAMC in later posts). Based on what I left Phoenix with last July after the IAVM Venue Connect, I expect even more from this trip. I gained so much both professionally and personally at the last conference I went to, my mind is boggled as to what changes might come about at this one.

There is only one problem.

I'll have to wait until February 9th to get there. I'm not a patient person :)

And by the way, I've already got my ticket to see Book of Mormon the night I get there. It's already shaping up to be a spectacular event!


A time during which I maintained my blog

See that soup up there? I'll tell you how to make it later on :)

Well here I am, doing a peachy job of maintaining my blog in the new year. What is this... three blog posts since New Years? I seem to do a pretty good job updating my blog when I put my mind to it. That is usually around the start of the year and when something exciting is going on in my life (unless it was 2008 in which case I seemed to have caught blogging fever). That also seems to be the pattern I have in keeping up to date with my far away friends.

It's sad.

I should fix that.

And since talking about blogging isn't nearly as exciting to the reader (or the author) as writing about something deep and introspective, I'll depart from my opening words and embark on a more interesting topic.

The first few days back to the office after an extended vacation (17 days to be exact) are never very easy. Mentally you are ready to head back, but physically, your body is ready for a nap at 11:28AM and then another one after a big, lazy lunch and a movie around 3:21PM. Back in the office, though, you might find yourself in important meetings or water cooler discussions around those times and a nap just doesn't cut it (at least, not in this country). On top of some long, napless days, you go home to a house void of all Christmas cheer. The decorations have been taken down, your baked Christmas goodies are getting stale, and the money you spent on Christmas is being replaced with a strategic plan that involves eating at home, every night, and on a budget.

Things look bleak right about now...

... unless you've found a hidden burst of creativity that you didn't use up preparing for the holidays.

While lounging about this past weekend, I worked very hard to make available some easy to grab activities and tasty, new menus for dinners. If my evenings are filled with new kitchen adventures followed by a game of solitaire with an REAL LIVE deck of cards, perhaps I have something to look forward to (why solitaire? Well, it's mindless... sometimes you need mindless in a day, don't you judge me. And why with a real deck of cards? Because it hurts my eyes less than my phone or computer screen).

Humor me for a minute. I adore cooking. I'm pretty good at it but long days at work coupled with exhausting brain things filling my head all day can lead to cop out meals. These are meals I know how to make without a recipe and that I know will be liked by all parties involved in the noshing process. My go to meals rotate between alfredo sauce on any kind of pasta that suits my fancy that day (sometimes I kick it up a notch and do a cajun chicken alfredo, but it's still alfredo), various types of enchiladas (I can make any freezer mystery meat into a killer pan of those Tex-Mex favorites), curry split pea soup, curry chicken pot pie, mushroom/sausage/pumpkin soup and... well... sometimes spaghetti and sometimes chili (although I'm not a fan of either but they are easy so we eat them). There you have it. If I'm going to cook at home, it's usually one of those things.

This can easily lead to thoughts of budget suicide (i.e., running to Cable Car Pizza for $30 worth of gourmet pizza or heading to China Cafe because it's familiar and they know you are the lady who likes extra sauce with her egg foo young). Foods that used to be tasty and exciting seem, quite honestly, upsetting to the stomach. Changes were inevitable if I was going to be able to maintain some form of a happy home that smells delicious every night.

Thankfully, I'm the proud owner of about 147 food related or recipe filled magazines from the past few years. Between Martha Stewart Living, Every Day Food (also Martha Stewart), and Everyday with Rachel Ray, I surely had a few good recipes to try out. It only took 20 minutes, but I was able to find 2 weeks worth of items to make in just three magazines. I'm happy to report that every single one I've prepared so far have been killer good.

Okay, so I've only made 3 so far, but things are looking up!

Now, all of this to say, I'm thinking that a weekly post to share one or two of my favorite recipes tried over the past week is surely in the cards. To kick things off, I bring you last night's Chicken Tortilla Soup - pictured above. The base recipe is from Everyday Food (the Jan/Feb 2012 issue) but I took a lot of creative liberties when cooking this 'cause that's what I do best.

5 cups chicken broth (I bought a box which had 4 and made a 5th out of bouillon and the hot water I poached the chicken in, I'm sure this made it better)
10 chicken tenders
most of a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (no salt added)
tablespoon of tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
chili powder (a lot... I didn't measure)
corn tortillas
olive oil
lime wedges
Mexican or Spanish rice of your choice (I make my own with white rice, a can of rotel, salt and cumin)
Shredded Mexican cheese (or cotija if you have cooler grocery stores than I do)

Poach the chicken until done, shred when cool enough to touch with out cursing
Heat oven to 350, cut desired amount of tortillas into strips (I used 3 for 2 bowls of soup), toss with a bit of olive oil (enough to coat very lightly), season with salt and chili powder, then spread on baking sheet and cook until crisp - turning once.
Cook your rice however you want to cook it (boxed rices comes with their own instructions, I don't need to put them here)
Cook garlic in a large soup pot with some olive oil until fragrant (a few minutes)
Add diced tomatoes in juice, tomato paste and chili powder (however much you want) and cook until liquid is almost gone.
Add all chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, DON'T FORGET ABOUT YOUR TORTILLA STRIPS (burning them is sad)

Place a scoop of rice in each bowl
top with some shredded chicken
top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese
slice avocado and set on top of the cheese
pour some of the soup into the bowl
top with cilantro and tortilla strips
then squeeze the heck out of a lime wedge over the top of the soup (you'll thank me later)

don't throw away the squeezed lime... put that bad boy down in some water, or tea, and pretend you're in Mexico. Better yet, make a margarita and dream of beach side restaurants in Cozumel. I did.

Serves 4 - don't be a pig, save the leftovers for lunch, unless you're starving. In that case, go ahead and be a pig.



This should be easy

Following up on my previous post -
how do you like my first 2 "me things" for 2012?

While browsing on Flickr, I ran across a lovely picture with some tips for the New Year. All were good tips, but this one stuck out to me:

Open your mind and just be still. Make time to let you mind relax and embrace uncertainty.

Being still is something I have been trying to do over the past few months. Turning the outside world off and sitting still is something that isn't hard for me to do. What I find impossible, though, is opening my mind and ridding it of stale thoughts. I tend to hold on to stressors way more than I should. When I stop everything to just be still and think, they creep up on me. The things that take up most of my thinking time are typically situations at work (never projects, projects don't consume my thoughts as much as you might think), monetary issues (who doesn't worry about this?), wanting a scenery change and situations at work (wait, did I list that twice?).

These things eat at me, poke at me and taunt me until I stop being still and get up to find something to occupy my mind with. I've tried many things to rid my head of these thoughts and have even gone as far as writing them down on paper and throwing them away. But still... they sit in the back of my head and mock me with their laughter.

What's the best way to rid my mind of these thoughts to allow more room for positive thinking when sitting still? I'm going to work on figuring this out... but not so hard that it adds to the stress!

Before I sat down to write this post, I sat in my bedroom (which is now a peaceful haven thanks to a redecorating urge I had a week ago) and thought about the past year. What a year it has been. I've read a few blog posts and Facebook posts since the new year that have mentioned many steps forward and many steps back. I can honestly say that I've taken many steps forward this year, but my steps back have been limited. Sure, there have been trials and obstacles all year but what year doesn't have those? As part of my task to clear out the stressors and fill my thoughts with positive vibes, I'm listing some of the highlights from this year:

Continued to have a loving, supportive and strong relationship with The Sweet Boy and celebrated our 7th anniversary in October. I cannot be thankful enough for the support he gives me in all aspects of what I do. Became more involved in a professional organization that is helping me define my career path in ways that I didn't know existed until a couple of years ago. Finally found a doctor who listened enough to diagnose PCOS as my issue with so many things (and since the diagnosis and following treatments, I haven't felt this good in over 15 years). Traveled to Mexico, Honduras and Belize with my sister - it was a trip we started talking about in 2003. Went to my first music festival in Chicago with my sister and boy have I been missing out! Participated in the Emerging Leaders Institute in NYC through the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Was published in an honest to goodness REAL publication. Joined my sister as a Junque Rethunque partner (a business she started with my mom years ago) and we had a successful first year as flea market booth renters. Next up? World domination, of course!

If I spend enough time thinking back on these highlights, there surely won't be room for the other things. My hope, for 2012, is to have an even better year than 2011. I'm off to a good start with a trip to Indianapolis at the beginning of February to work during the Super Bowl followed by a trip out to NYC for the IAVM PAMC conference. Now only time will tell how the year will shape after that.

So here's to a great year with many steps forward and much time spent opening my mind and just being still.