Saturday, September 5, 2009

To Choose a Church

How do you choose a church? I've faced this question a couple times in my life when moving to a new city, but I'm still not sure how to answer it.

When you know nothing about the town and know nobody in it, your initial church visits are based solely on the exterior of the building and what little information you can find online. So you end up spending weeks of Sundays feeling uncomfortable in churches whose outside marquees completely misrepresented them.

When you do already know people in your new town, you will inevitably commit to the church of your favorite friend, and live with the nagging feeling in the back of your mind that there could still be a better church out there that you never got the chance to visit.

The idea of a "better church" brings up another question: if you're a Bible-believing Christian, shouldn't you be happy in any Bible-believing church? Some would say yes, I would say no. Choosing a church is a rare opportunity to choose your extended family, and there are so many more factors to consider beyond the obviously important factor of faith.

I'm excited about starting a new long-term relationship with a church in the area, but I'm dreading all the blind dates it will take to get there. If you have any advice and/or recommendations I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Homeless No More?

What a great weekend! My sister came into town, I got to play with her babies, I had a sleepover with my brother, my mom made opossum pie, and I bought a house! Not one of those plastic houses you buy with pink money to put on Park Place, I bought a REAL house! Well, maybe. I guess I don't really know for sure until they hand me the keys at our closing date.

We've spent the last eight months pouring over house listings online, so after moving to Arkansas and landing a job it only took two weeks for us to find and put an offer on the perfect house. And only a few short hours after that, we got the call that they accepted our offer! We expected a counter-offer with compromises, but luckily for us the owners have already moved out of state and are just anxious to sell the home!

Bryan and I were very subdued in the agent's office while writing up the offer. The agent asked why we weren't more excited. I shrugged my shoulders, "We know it's not ours yet." I figured we wouldn't get excited until closing day, but now that we know they accepted our offer the excitement is building. I know things can still fall through if the inspection fails or some unforeseen problem arises, but it's getting harder to hold back the giddy expectation of home ownership!

I'll keep you updated, and I promise to post a picture if we make it to closing day!

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Week Later

Well I don't want to leave you hanging after that last post. You'll be happy to know I've gotten better about bringing my brain home from work. The environment and coworkers are great, it's just the busy workload that is difficult to get used to. (I hate ending that sentence with a preposition, but I just don't have the energy to reword it.)

#1 question everyone wants to ask a new hire: "So what kind of music do you listen to?"

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sara v. The Man

I started my new job today. If the rest of these sentences are short and lack proper grammar/punctuation it's just because my brain is simply overloaded. If I could sum up the first day in one word: overwhelming. I suppose that's the same for anybody starting a new job though. Except for those statues of liberty that wave at cars during tax season. I bet they can still use their brain after their first day of work. Not me. My head is not my own right now. I left it in a black leather office chair facing a wall.

But I'm realistic. I can handle this, and things will get easier every day. I've just got to remember to bring my brain home with me tomorrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm Baaack

Three weeks ago today I was in the middle of a cross-country transition… somewhere between the good life I had with Bryan in North Carolina, and the blank pages of a chapter in our lives titled "Return to Arkansas". This chapter is beginning like many good novels do: with desperation. We are currently jobless, homeless, churchless, and all our meals come from the microwave oven. We are one stolen loaf of bread away from being characters in Les Miserables. Fun times, eh?

But despite the stress of job interviews every other day, mortgage loan complications, and allergic reactions to my parent's rent-free flop house, we really ARE quite happy to be back in Northwest Arkansas! Every day that I get to see beautiful green hills outside or get to cheer on my little brother's baseball team I'm reminded of how truly grateful I am to begin this chapter surrounded by all the places and people we love best!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lovely Distraction

With less than a month until our big move to the Midwest, I was spending several hours a day job hunting. I scoured every online job board in the morning, and again in the evening. Google search became my intimate friend. I found perfect jobs for everyone I knew, except myself. I was consumed and verging on despair when I finally accepted the hard truth: I need a hobby!! Something to distract me from my job-hunting obsession!

Cue the craft blogs. Yes, all of them. I visited one of my favorites for inspiration on a new project for me. Soon I clicked on one link, that led me to another, and after a messy maze of hyperlinks which I could never recreate, I finally found it. It was beautiful. They called it a buttercup bag, but I called it a savior. I knew instantly its destiny was to save me from my depressive compulsory job hunt. 24 hours and some leftover fabric later, I'd made my first purse. Another 24 hours and a fabric store after that, I'd made my second purse.


I'm extremely proud. I cannot stitch a straight line, the buttonhole is crooked, the magnetic snaps don't align, and my attempt to tackle piping is quite flawed, but I'm SO happy with the results! Considering I've never followed a pattern nor sewed anything more complicated than curtains, these purses were super easy to make. And best of all… I have three job interviews this week!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tutorial Time!!!!

I LOVE tutorials, don't you?! Especially when they come with LOTS of pictures! So when my friend, DeMo, suggested I post a vector art tutorial on my blog I thought it was a great idea! My techniques are not closely guarded secrets—I strongly object to designers keeping design secrets from one another! The vector illustrations I create are actually quite simple and only require patience and the ability to squint your eyes! Now, prepare yourself for the longest post my blog has ever seen. Are you ready, class? Let's dive in!





















Ok, this is the image we will be working with. It is one girl that is part of a larger photo. I do my work in Illustrator CS2. These images show you the original photo, and the finished vector art.

First, open the photo in Illustrator. Select the photo, and in the Transparency palette bring the opacity down to about 60-80%. This will make your paths easier to see when you draw on top of the photo, and also help hide the unimportant details so they don't distract you. Lock the photo layer, and create a new layer to start the drawing!

Set your stroke to black and your fill to empty. Set the stroke weight to .25. Using the Pen Tool, begin outlining the perimeter of her face. Now start squinting to see where the main shadows and highlights are in the face. Trace each shadow/highlight. At the very least a face will have 4 degrees of color. The darkest shades are always around the eyes and under the nose. The lightest is always on the tip of the nose. As you're drawing, keep in mind the layer order that you are creating. Trace large areas of color first, and the smallest areas of color last. Ignore the boundaries of hair, eyes, and smile for now.

My advice: Know your Pen Tool!!! This tool is frustrating for beginners, but with enough practice you can master its subtleties. Modifier keys are essential to use with the Pen Tool, and pressing space bar while drawing a point will allow you to reposition its placement.






Once you're satisfied with the job you've done of scribbling all over her face, begin coloring the paths. (Open the "Skintones" color palette for a good place to start.) Reposition the path layers as necessary to make sure none of them get lost underneath the others. After the skin of the face is complete, go through the same process to draw other areas of skin, like hands.











Occasionally you may want to hide the photo layer to see your progress and make sure you're not leaving any gaping holes between paths. (I always think they look kinda freaky/cool at this point without any eyes or mouth!)








Now let's temporarily hide the skin layer(s) so we can draw the eyes and mouth. Same process as before. (Be sure to zoom in close for this, don't try to do it from far away!) I usually use the circle tool to draw the pupil because it can look funny if it's not a perfect circle. Btw, did you know that in photos people's eyes and teeth are grey/yellow and not white? Shocker! Let's do them a favor and color them white anyways. It also helps to add a little circle of white reflection in their eyes. Instant depth.


Before we move on, I want to explain a technique I use a lot. I've zoomed in on the mouth to show you that when I draw the lips, they start out as only one or two paths, all the same color. This screenshot shows how I selected the lower lip on the left, then used the Knife Tool to cut through it. Now it is two separate paths that can be colored independently. In the smile on the right I cut and colored the bottom lip once, and the top lip twice. I use the Knife tool a lot to help me break up the colors in a solid path.

After the skin, eyes, and smile, it's time for the hair! Hair like this can be quite intimidating because we see so many little lines and streaks and shade differences. Remember to just be patient and to squint your eyes! Squinting will help you drown out the details and see the big picture. After the hair is finished, continue on to draw the clothes. I think clothes are fun because they have VERY distinct shadows in the fold lines—but that makes it easy to overlook the highlights. Always draw both shadows & highlights because illustrations will look flat if you have one without the other. (All these elements are drawn the same way: everything in a black .25 stroke and filled with color after all shadows & highlights are traced.)

Finally, when we turn on all the layers and reorder them correctly, we have a beautiful finished vector illustration! (See finished vector at the top of the post!)

Below is a screenshot of what my layers palette looks like after finishing all the elements. In this particular project I was doing a group photo, so each person had their own layer and all the elements—skin, hair, clothes, etc—were grouped inside the layers. But if you're only doing one person, it makes more sense to give all the elements their own layers.



That completes my tutorial! Let me know if you have questions about anything I didn't cover, if you have suggestions for other tutorials, or if you think this was incredibly long-winded and never want to see me post another tutorial again—all comments welcome!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Vicariously Me

Sometimes instead of actually going outside to read my Bible, I just draw a picture of myself doing it. (with one continuous line)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cats


This morning we had a visitor in our back yard! At the time Avee and Bryan were both gone from the house, so I let Suki outside to mingle with our guest. It was fun to watch them interact, both curious and hesitant about the other. But eventually I stopped watching the show and put on my running shoes to go for a jog. As I left the house I met Bryan and Avee just getting home. I told Bryan about the visitor & Suki and recommended he go look at them.

When my jogging was done, this is what I came home to find:


Funny, I'd forgotten how most cats PURR when you pet them and ENJOY being held. Watch out, Suki. Your days may be numbered!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Three Years in Three Days

I'm not an extremely fit person, but I try to jog a mile or two every few days. (It makes me feel a little less guilty about all the delicious homemade cookies and breads that I eat.) Since the rainy weather was not conducive to an outside jog today, I drove to my little Gym to tread the mill for a bit. (Does anybody know how a treadmill got its name?) When I arrived at the Gym I was slightly annoyed to discover it was closed because of the SWINE FLU and would reopen after it was "sanitized" sometime this week. Yeah. Swine flu. There has not been one case of swine flu in our entire state, and after the Gym is sanitized and they let people start using it again, will it really be any safer than it was before the big clean?? So stupid.

Moving on…

I cannot let this week pass without announcing to the world that on Wednesday Bryan and I will FINALLY get to spend an anniversary together!! In fact it will take all my effort not to mention this in every facebook status for the next three days. We don't have any big plans for the special day because saving for a down payment on a house has us on a tight budget. We're thinking a nice restaurant and a sunset walk on the beach. Any other low-cost celebration ideas??

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sara K, the CRUSHER!!!

Ok, crushes are for more than just teenage girls, orange soda, and pro wrestling, right? I crush on people and things all the time! So here I have compiled a short list of what I've been crushing on lately. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Bite-sized Heath bars. Bryan picked out a big bag of these to sneak into the movie theater last week (I picked out strawberry Twizzlers) and I was shocked at how truly satisfying chocolate-covered toffee really is. Who knew?
• My new Facebook profile pic. I spent about thirty minutes doing some fine Photoshop work on an average picture of me to make it outstanding. I love the final result. Totally crushing on it.
• My husband. Nature is cruel at this time of the month.
• A hand-made heart pendant I recently bought from Etsy.com. I've been on the lookout for the perfect red heart necklace for a long time now—not too junior high, not too formal, not too red, not too expensive—and I'm so happy that I finally found the perfect pendant! Love it!• Kris Allen. SOOO proud of my Arkansas boy on American Idol!! I don't think he'll win, but I love that he's representing our publicity-challenged state so well!
• Yard sales. (I think I pretty much covered this one in my last post!)
• My grandmother's antique wedding ring. I've been in love with this little piece of jewelry all my life, and even wanted to use it for my own wedding ring. That didn't work out though, and for a long time it stayed tucked away in a safe place because I thought it would be tacky to wear a wedding set on each hand—but this week I changed my mind! Now it's out of hiding, on my right hand, and not tacky at all!
• Seagulls. I guess I've just been spending a lot more time outside and noticing them lately. They're such fun birds! I love how they always sound like they're laughing; it never ceases to make me smile!
• Pandora radio online. How does anybody ever get work done without Pandora?? Their steady stream of songs that are just to my liking helped me get through two weeks (and counting) of tracing photos in Illustrator. Couldn't have done it without ya, Pandora!
• My sister's new blog! It's all about how cute my little niece and nephew are, and Stefanie has an entertaining style of documenting their cuteness! There's a link to it on right of this page called "Borkerts the Sister".

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Seven Dollar Saturday

This morning I was wide awake at 6:30am. NOT a good way to start the only day of the week that you get to sleep in.

UNlessss... there are 46 yard sales in your area! So I made some coffee, kissed my sleeping husband, and went out armed with the $7 left over from yesterday's X-Men matinee. (Why do so many theaters still only accept cash???)

I didn't go to all 46 yard sales—it's PCS season which means lots of Marines are changing duty stations and wanting to sell their stuff before the move—I only went to six. Is that a lot? Well I didn't buy anything at the first two, but in the following four I offered, haggled, and conceded all $7 on the following ten items: a shirt from Maurices, a shirt from Express, khakis from Abercrombie, USMC travel mug, Starbucks mug, trendy necklace, cute picture frame, cushy keyboard wrist pad, a new dog toy for Avee, and a pool stick (with case & chalk). Can we say SCORE??!! Yeah, I totally pwned those yard sales this morning. Kinda makes it worth having a 6:30 internal alarm.

This is completely unrelated to everything you just read, but I have to mention something that Bryan just said to me as he was watching the Kentucky derby pre-show: "I have a feeling that if we lived anywhere near Kentucky you'd want to go to the derby just so you could get dressed up and wear a big hat." :) My husband knows me so well!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mmmm!

I love popcorn! Oh yes I do—especially the lightly buttered variety! Mmm! I just now put an Orville bag in the microwave and thought how lucky I am to work from home and make popcorn for lunch! When I worked at DS I had popcorn for lunch a few brave times, but there was always the chance that one kernel would burn and fill the entire building with that distinct burnt popcorn smell. And even if I was lucky enough not to burn any kernels in the finnicky office microwaves, it would still fill the entire building with that distinct (non-burnt) popcorn smell. Either way, I always tried to sneak out of the breakroom with my bag of buttery popped goodness before anyone could identify me as the culprit. Then I would quickly scarf it down at my desk, making sure the only evidence left behind was my exquisitely satisified countenance.

So while there are many nice things about working from home as a freelance designer, one of the best is being able to have popcorn for lunch without annoying your coworkers!

Right now I'm working on two things, a logo for a small make-up/hair product company, and a set of seven illustrations commissioned by a non-profit organization. Maybe when I'm done I will post an image of the logo and a link to the illustrations!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Updates

My latest illustration, The Golfer, is now available for purchase on iStock.

I also updated my portfolio web site with some more recent work in the categories of Logo Design, Print Design, and Web Design.

And I'm officially on the market! Let me know if you hear of any design jobs in NW Arkansas because I'm ready to apply!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Announcement from My Soapbox

I have some quick advice for mothers of any age. Here it is: Don't talk about your labor stories. Avoid the topic completely in any social setting. Thank you.

EDIT: This post originally elaborated on the details of why this conversation topic is inappropriate and sometimes offensive, but after some thought I decided it was best to remove those details. :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Ozarks and The Crystal Coast

I reaaalllyy want to buy a house in NW Arkansas! (And you can tell I mean it by the way that I duplicated letters in the word "really" to make it look so emphatic.) And I CAN'T WAIT to get a design job in NW Arkansas! (Capital letters... you get the idea.)

But as much as I'm anticipating that house hunt and job search, I've already started putting the brakes on my eagerness to leave this puny little NC town. I think I'm really going to miss this place. Bryan and I have a good life here. We live in a wonderful community, we have great friends, our jobs let us spend a lot of time together (when he's not in another country), and we're only 20 minutes from the beach. Moving back to NW Arkansas is our dream, but I'm trying to savor these last few months in North Carolina because I know that a part of me will miss it when we leave.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 14

"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him."

I like this scripture. I understand that it is referring to God's New Testament blessing of eating animals that were once thought unclean, but I think the lesson from these verses has a broader range of application. It makes me think of people who identify themselves as Christians yet also smoke, cuss, drink, etc. In my opinion, those are also "disputable matters" that should not be judged. And on the flip side, those whose faith allows them to do such things should not "look down on" those with weaker (more traditional?) faith who might be wrongly judgmental about the issues. Christians need to understand that there are varying degrees of faith, but they are ALL faith. Let's not get trapped into thinking that the church has to agree on all disputable matters. Your opinion and/or participation in these matters should be based solely on your own measure of faith:

"But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

pathetic athletic

I've often wondered why the UPS man has to come to my house at the END of the day. I feel like the poor kid who gets home an hour later than everyone else just because his house is at the end of the bus route. I'm expecting a package today and I've already opened the front door four times "just to check" in case my doorbell stopped working or my ears went temporarily deaf when it rang. My childlike anticipation is for none other than a new pair of running shoes I recently ordered. Ah... there is little more satisfying and nothing more motivating than a fresh pair of running shoes. They're still white, their shoelaces have never been crossed, and they don't even smell like the road yet! And I get the pleasure of introducing these shoes to their destiny. Shoes, this is the sidewalk. Sidewalk, Shoes. I can't wait!!


But unfortunately I don't have a choice. I must wait. (and pray that my UPS driver has a heavy right foot)

In the meantime though, I do have a question for you. Yes, you. The person reading my blog who also jogs, runs, walks, or does any mindless monotonous task. What do you think about when you're doing it? I asked a couple people this question and found the answers interesting. One girl said she does math problems in her head while she's jogging. Another person said he pretended he was a superhero running to save the day. I could use some more suggestions b/c all I end up thinking about are my many friends who can run so much faster and farther than me!

Ok, time to check the front door again...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Finish Another Blog Post About Finishing Things: Check!

Continuing my theme of completing things I set out to do, I've decided to make a list of some short-term goals. This is mainly for my own benefit, but if I get one or two comments on this post then it's worth sharing. :)

Finish the baby doll quilt. I bought the fabric, cut the pieces, even sewed it together, but after sewing the completed top together with the batting and back fabric I realized my immediate need for a fairy godmother to undo my mistakes and give me a clean slate. My fairy godmother came in the form of a $2 seam ripper from Michael's. Now I just need to actually use it and start another round of sewing. Have I mentioned that I have no instructions on how to make a quilt? I have an idea of how it should work, and that seemed good enough to start the project.

Finish out the golfer illustration and get it selling on iStock. I owe it to Tru (the model) to get this done before he leaves Cherry Point next month!

Finish Don Quixote. I've spent about 9 months trying to get through de Cervantes' masterpiece. It is a very very very long book and the last quarter of it is proving to be my most difficult hurdle. I've been slacking off lately and haven't read a chapter in a few months, but yesterday I had a brilliant idea of something that will motivate me to finish the last bit of that book. The beach! Yes, I've decided that this summer I will take regular trips to the beach for reading time to finish Don Quixote. (But don't expect this to mean that I will come home this fall with a tan—it is physically impossible to alter my fair complexion.)

Finish the canvas paintings. Well I have this big empty space on the wall above the landing in our staircase and Michael's had their blank canvases 40% off last week, so I put two and two together and knew it was a sign from God calling me to create some original art for the empty space in my home. So now I have three canvases, two paint colors, and a few pencil-drawn thumbnails. I'm thinking something along the lines of a series of organic silhouette images in neutral colors. But I do tend to think a lot and do very little. :\

Hopefully this public admission of my intentions will keep me accountable to actually getting these things done!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Follow-Through Complete

Sometimes it's hard for me to finish things that I start, like this blog post for instance. I've had a draft of this post saved for over two weeks, and even though I'm typing in it now, I'm not sure that I will be able to follow-through and click the Publish Post button today.

As promised, here is the completion of the partial illustration I showed you in the last post. I'm still not sure if I'm done with it though. Maybe I'll change the color of his shirt or bag. Something about those colors just aren't jiving with me. The other two images I showed you last time have each sold three times this month. Not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about quilting. I've never done it before, but I think I might give it a go. This link is the coolest quilt I've ever seen. I'd love to make one like that, but this virgin quilter will require an incredibly basic pattern for my first time. I'm going to do a practice run by making a baby doll size quilt (which will probably be a gift to Flora) about 20" x 20". If I can master that project without getting bored or frustrated then I'll promote myself to the big leagues and start on something, well, big!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy 26th Birthday, Bryan!!

Yes, today is my love's golden birthday! He is 26 on the 26th! And we are celebrating with his favorite activity: staying home and doing nothing! lol, yeah he's pretty easy to please!

Here are two new illustrations that I uploaded to iStock this week. Hopefully they will sell like hot cakes and I'll get lots and lots of money from them! :) Hopefully. :) The first one is a seamless tile, which means you can stack the image on top of itself or beside itself and you won't be able to see where one ends and the other begins—great for wallpaper on desktops or background on web sites. The second one is a set of stylized sports balls. Thanks goes out to my brother-in-law for instructing me on the size and dimensions of a rugby ball!

EDIT: I removed the images of my finished illustrations because iStock's watermark could barely be seen on them. If you want to see the illustrations, visit my iStock portfolio page—there's a link to it on the right column of my blog!

And here is a sneak preview of what I am working on for my next submission to iStock! I'll post a link to the finished image when I get it completed, hopefully sometime this week.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ell-Oh-Ell

Well, maybe it's just me, but this incident cracked me up and I thought it was worth sharing! Avee and Suki were playing on Bryan's jacket when this happened...

video

And here is the rescue:

video

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Warthog

Hi, remember me? I know it's been a few months, but I'm that girl. You know, that girl who thought she'd never get a house, who saved her Mac from his suicide attempt, and who moaned for months—nay, years!—at her Marine husband's absence overseas. Yeah, that's me. You've missed me, haven't you? Well you can thank this twenty-something's return to blogging for inspiring me to grace you with my presence again. Really, it's been too long. Let me see if I remember how to do this...

Here's something I found very disturbing. We have some friends here from Maine, and when the wife saw Bryan's razorback baseball cap she asked,"What is Arkansas' mascot? Is it a warthog?" Yeah. A warthog. Oh, how our friend from Texas laughed when she said that. We love our razorbacks, but man is it embarrassing when your mascot is mistaken for a warthog. I kind of wish Arkansas had stuck with their original mascot long ago of the cardinals. At least they're not in the pig family.

A couple blogs down I was upset about not having a house yet. Well I finally got a house not long after that post, but now I want another one! I want a house in Arkansas! I am soooo looking forward to house-hunting in Arkansas this summer. I've already got about 10 homes bookmarked online that I hope will still be on the market in six months. Oh, but there's one little catch. I kinda need to have a job in Arkansas before we will get approved for a mortgage. Minor detail, right? So shoot me a message if you can guarantee me a full-time job six months from now!