Thursday, September 20, 2012

Photo Face Lift!

I have been super busy this month! I started a new job teaching English in a school in Móstoles, Spain, and dealing with first and second graders sure takes the energy out of you! You can read about my adventures as an owl-xiliar on my Tumblr page. I have a goal to write one entry for each and every school day!

I have also been working on three custom orders for my Etsy shop! I have finished all of them and will be shipping out the third tomorrow!

The first was for a friend from my university. Her baby, Gabriela, will look so adorable in this owl hat / ankle boots set:

She also ordered a baby elf hat in turquoise and white to match her magenta winter coat. I would have never thought of that color combination, but it will be so adorable! I added a little white bow to make the elf hat extra girly. :)

Then it was on to custom order number deux. This was a second order from a French photographer. Her business is Art Est Sur Images, and you can check her out on Facebook. This included two Christmas elf hats, in red and white, for 3-6 months and 12 months. They turned out so adorable.

She also requested an elf hat in blue and green for her 2 year old nephew. I had never made such a large hat, but I figured out how to do it by googling a bit, and it turned out really nice. The tail will be really long (think Randy from "A Christmas Story") but, as my boyfriend has reminded me a couple of times, that's why it's so cute.


The third custom order was for a family member, and since it is a gift to another family member, I can't post any more details! :) 

It has been so flattering to get so many custom orders all at once, and it was so rewarding to finish them all!

In my other (spare) time (haha), I have been working on my crochet photography skills. As a novice photographer, I quickly learned that taking pictures of tiny little booties in your apartment is nothing like taking pictures of architecture, people or landscapes. It requires specialized lighting and exact positioning. I got the positioning down quickly, but the lighting in my apartment is... special.

Because it's so hot in Madrid, and we live on the top floor, I have to keep the blinds drawn all day. Yes, it makes me feel slightly like a vampire, and it also makes it really difficult to take pretty pictures. So I pull up the blinds and roast, but even then, I had shadows and my (beautiful, lovely, precious) yellow walls gave the white backdrop a tinge that made me crazy... and not in a good way.

After some research out on the interwebs, I found a way to make a homemade lightbox.
 I made one with some white construction paper, and even though I just laid them in the box instead of taping / draping / crazy-woman-making, I usually don't photograph the sides or the corners, so you don't see the seam. I also bought two small lamps from Ikea (oh, the European Wal-mart) and use those if I am taking really, really close shots, like this one:

Encouraged by my improved photos, I decided to give the front page of my Etsy shop a face lift. I photographed all of my items (except for two, because the sun set... I shake my fist at you, Mr. Sun!) and edited them. I made them the first shot of each listing so that my main shop page has a more uniform appearance. I didn't like the cluttered look before I did this, and I feel much better after all that hard work!

Why don't you check out my new and improved Etsy shop page? Oh, and give us your photography secrets in a comment! :)

Stay tuned, as I will be posting the pattern for my vintage marguerite bonnet soon!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back from vacation!

After two weeks of sleeping in, daily siestas, delicious food, and virtually no schedule to think of, I quite understand why Spaniards become so grumpy on September 1. Vacations are over and it's back to work after quite a long time away from reality. I start my new job tomorrow, and I spent my last day of "vacation" getting Madrid Metro Mod back up and running as well as listing all of the little confections I made while away from Madrid.

Vacation was amazing! We spent the first week in Olombrada, Segovia (Spain), the town where my boyfriend's mother grew up. I can't imagine growing up in the house that she grew up in, mainly because the hallways have a lot in common with the staircases at Monticello (that is, to say, they are very, very narrow) and there is no heat in the house. It was in the 90s during the day, but we still slept with blankets at night. I also met the boyfriend's Aunt Reme, who is a nun in Navarra. She was really nice, did a lot of dishes, and taught me three new card games. We played cards... a lot.

The first night of vacation was spent dancing to a street band in Cantalejo, a neighboring town that had its yearly festivals. We ate churros y chocolate (think funnel cake meets really thick hot chocolate and they had a trashy love affair in your belly) and danced until super tarde... or 1am, when I was about to fall over.

Churros y chocolate from a street vendor. Yum!

The best son in the world, taking his mom for a stroll around the dance floor.

The boyfriend's brother and mom, dancing!

The plaza filled up quite a bit when Paquito el Chocolatero (think Spanish YMCA) started playing!

The next morning, to do penance for our sins - and mainly to have a drink at the wonderful café next to the church - we attended mass at El Santuario de la Virgen del Henar. Legend has it that the Virgin appeared there to some shepherds and made the water begin running in the fountain that had dried up. It still runs to this day, and I love going to mass here every time we go to Olombrada.

The ceiling of the church, like the rest of it, is absolutely gorgeous.
We went swimming at the local pool, we went shopping in Cuéllar, and on the way home, we ran into a herd of sheep! With a shepherd! And I took a picture with them, because I thought they were incredibly awesome.

While in Olombrada, I also made my first tortilla española, or Spanish omelet. The trick is to use about a gallon and a half of olive oil to fry the potatoes at a low heat, then remove the potatoes, mix them with the beaten eggs, and then put it all back in the skillet with some oil. It was lots of fun, and I didn't drop the tortilla when I flipped it!

On our last day in Olombrada, Jorge took me to Peñafiel, a town that has a medieval castle that dates from the 10th century. It was amazingly horrific, especially the open areas of the castle where the guide reminded you several times to hold onto your small children because they can fall through the cracks. If you get too freaked out, you can go have a drink in the Museo Provicinal del Vino, or the province's wine museum. It was pretty cool to learn so much about how wine is made! I promptly forgot most of it over a glass of tinto.

The castle sits on top of a terribly high hill.

Although I loved being in Olombrada, the best cure for "end of vacation blues" is to promptly go on another vacation, which we did. We packed up five adults, a bird, a dog and luggage for a week (please, read that again... I'll wait) into a Honda CRV - which, might I add, is considered a small SUV in the United States - and headed to Calpe, Valencia.

Beaches on the Mediterranean are nothing like the Carolina coasts where I grew up vacationing. The beaches tend to be very small, overcrowded with umbrellas and people, and there are very few waves. If there are waves, it's because there is a storm, and the red flag goes up and the lifeguard (yes, there was a real, live lifeguard) tells you to get out of the water, and you promptly get soaked by a downpour. This happened several times, but the beach was gorgeous.

Jorge and his family in Benidorm, another beach close to Calpe.

Calpe on the last night of vacation!
In Calpe, we visited some super important caves where cavemen and their dogs lived over 50,000 years ago! We also saw the Fonts del Algar, a natural spring with waterfalls that you can swim in... or, perhaps, kill yourself, as I saw lots of people fall on their culetes while attempting to traverse the rocks.

The diving area of Fonts del Algar.

The original cave entrance in Cueva de las Calaveras. Can you imagine having to climb down that barefoot?!
I also had a birthday while in Calpe! As a present, I threw caution to the wind and went for a 20€ haircut in a salon with a bald barber and a lesbian stylist. It turned out to be one of the best haircuts I've ever had!

After two long weeks, a birthday, missing my family, and surviving a double ear infection and gastroenteritis, I hopped back in the Honda CRV with the other four adults, one bird, one dog, luggage, and souvenirs, and traveled back to Madrid. Tomorrow, back to work, but I can't wait for next year's vacation... possibly in the USA!! :)

Oh, and yes I did do some light hooking on vacation. Allow me to toot my own horn and say that I think I made some cute things, as the first pair of ankle boots that I listed on Etsy today sold within the hour! Yipee! :)