Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Meet Aubrey Burchell

I love people who feel passionately about something and have amazing talent. My friend's daughter is one of those people. Her name is Aubrey and she sings from her soul. I am talking deep down. Her voice is already booming enough to remind you of Adele, Amy Whinehouse and Etta James. She's only 11 and I have her in my iTunes.

I want you to meet Aubrey. I did a little Q&A with her so that she can talk about her new project with Pittsburgh Producer and Club Owner, Mark Gibson. Aubrey and Mark currently have a Kickstarter fundraiser to produce and distribute a Christmas single called Nothing for Me.

She is hoping to raise enough funds by December 11 to put out the single and needs to meet a $1000 goal. Please take some time to watch some of her videos and read her Q&A so you can see the amazing talent that Aubrey possesses. I ask that if you can, please consider supporting her Kickstarter program to help make her dream a reality!

Check out these videos of Aubrey singing at the ZanderZ fudraiser for Autistic and Special Needs Children.

Now that you've had a chance to hear Aubrey sing, keep reading and get to know a little more about her.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Aubrey and I'm 11. I have two sisters, Brenna and Cayla, and 4 pets. My favorite color is Blue. I LOVE to sing, play softball,gymnastics, and musical theater. I was Ariel in the Little Mermaid play. I also like sing for fundraisers.
You're still really young. How old were you when you first started singing?
When I first started talking! I have always been singing! LoL
I am always amazed when you start to sing how strong your vocals are and your ability to project them. How does it feel to have such a big voice in such a small package?
I don't know how to describe it. I thank God for giving me a gift(:
I already know how your parents help to nurture your love of music but for the readers please tell us about your family and what they do to support you.
Mom and Dad remind me to practice everyday. Dad helps with keeping me in the right key and tells me when I'm pitchy. They have found fundraisers for me to sing for and have taken me hours away just to sing. They help a lot!
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Adele, Christina Aguilara, Mariah Carey, Whitney Huston, Alex Claire, Ray LaMotagne, Etta James...there are so many LoL(:
What are your favorite two songs to sing and why?
I have so much fun singing and performing Celo's Forget You and Etta James At Last is one of my favorites to sing becuase it's a beautiful song.
What is your dream for your musical career?
My dream is to get my name out there, record albums, and maybe go on tour one day and sing at big places!
Tell us about the song you are hoping to record called "Nothing For Me".
It's called Nothing For Me, we have already recorded it just hoping the Kickstarter works so it can be released. It's about giving and thankfulness and to some people it's just not. The person is angry and wondering what happened and what is wrong with people. Remember what is important. The last line says remember the homeless, remember the children.
What is it like working with Mark Gibson?
Mark is a very nice guy! He is very experienced with music and I look up to him. He wrote the song and asked me to sing it, he took me to the studio and made the Kickstarter for me. I also have sang at his club Club Radioactive.
So what is Kickstarter and how does your project work?
Kickstarter is a place to put stuff out there and raise money for projects. If we meet the goal the song is funded, if the goal isn't reached nobody is charged and the project isn't funded.
Last words to the readers?
Thank you Jessica. Thank you to those who read this. I hope you enjoy the song. Hope to sing for you sometime!!

Please take some time to check out Aubrey's videos and consider a donation to her Kickstarter.

Link to Kickstarter -

You can also check out Aubrey's YouTube Channel and Like her on Facebook!

YouTube -

Facebook -

Thanks for reading all about Aubrey. Hopefully she finds a few more fans in some of you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Literary Link Up! Count me in....

I am an obsessive reader. I can devour a book. Sometimes I have spent an entire day curled up reading from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. I get very attached to the characters and their story. I love a nice long series and I have a kind of mourning when it's over and there's no new story for my characters. I've cried my eyes out for characters (thanks Nicholas Sparks) and felt happiness when a story works out well.

I don't watch a lot of TV. I have certain shows that I watch and that's it. When my husband is out of the house the TV is rarely on. He was recently away for two weeks and I turned it on twice. I don't like the sounds and the movement. I am usually doing something else when I am "watching" TV like reading or embroidery because I can't focus and just sick there and watch the giant screen blink at me.

Books take the place of my television. And I am 100% okay with that. Not only does it keep me mentally engaged and relaxes me, but it also helps to improve my memory, my language skills and my vocabulary. I have always been a reader. My husband became a reader because of me and he can attest to it helping his language skills and his vocabulary. It doesn't matter what you read, just read something.

Encourage your children to read. It pains me when I hear kids say that they hate reading. Or reading is boring. Usually one of the first things I say to them is, "Did you know that in the original Peter Pan the character of Tinker Bell is mean and swears all the time?" This usually gets their attention enough that they will start to talk about that book or about other books they were curious about reading. You have to make people realize that books are interesting and find what would make them curious enough to read something. For kids, it's going to be that they can read a book with a couple of naughty words in it. There are secrets hidden in books and they should want to find them!

All of that is what made me extra excited when I saw that By The Porchlight and Goings On In Texas were doing a Literary Link Up. Meeting other people who love reading and reading their thoughts and answers to the link up questions is a great way to get to know someone.

By the Porchlight

Here are my answers to the Link Up Questions!

1) What book are you currently reading? Give us a little synopsis and your review.
I just finished book 12 in the Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris last night. I needed a mental break after reading all five Game of Thrones books in six weeks and this was the perfect way to go. I started book 1 on Sept 24 and finished book 12 on November 19.
The books are paranormal romance. I wouldn't say they are written well or with any sort of flair but the characters are fleshed out enough that you don't hate reading about them and you can get a good mental picture. Each book is laid out in the same format. Introduction/Re-Introduction of main character and where the last book left off. Start of books main plot (i.e. - Something bad happens.) Mystery is attempted to be solved. Mystery is solved usually in some climactic way that involves a lot of violence. End of book with a vague enough ending that you want to read the next one.
I obviously enjoyed the books well enough to read twelve of them. They would be good beach or vacation reads, or in my case sometime to read after you've been reading something heavy and involved.

2) What are your 3 favorite books of all time?
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Enough said, right?
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I bought this book because I loved the cover and I've probably read it over a dozen times.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Great read. I can't even describe how amazing this story is every time I read it.
Runner up? I really needed about 20 spots here but I went with 4. Good omens from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It's humorous and satire at it's absolute best.

3) What is your "approach" upon entering a bookstore? Where do you immediately head after entering through the front door?
Mostly I buy books from Amazon or electronics books for my Kindle. But I do like to wander around Barnes and Noble. When I first enter I head straight for the bookcases up front with the Bargain Books. You never know when you're going to find a gem there. After that I make my way through Fiction and over to the Craft sections.

I hope you all sign up for the Link Up. If not please leave a comment of some of your favorite books!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Puppies, Ideas and Chevrons....Oh My!

It seems like I haven't actually sat at my sewing machine and made anything for a week. I have been working on a lot of things. A lot of time consuming things with intangible finished products. I tend to beat myself up when I can't physically hand something to my husband when he gets home from work and say, "Look what I did today!" It took a lot of time to get this blog set up the way I wanted it. It also takes a lot of time to work on marketing for your shop, answer emails from potential customers, put together sketches and proposals and also keep up with things around your life like cooking and cleaning. He understands and he does see that I am working. I just feel like intangible goods make it harder for me to feel fully accomplished. Do you ever feel like you should have "done more" when in reality you did a lot? So...what have I been doing besides working on the blog? Well I wasn't doing laundry, as evidenced by our overflowing hamper. That will have to be tomorrow's job. I was hanging out with these guys:

Just like kids, sometimes they have bad days and need some extra attention. Sometimes they just want a cuddle and sometimes I do too. I created gift certificates for the shop. You can get there by clicking the SHOP link up in the menu bar. I also set up FREE SHIPPING for all orders over $50. I think I am going to keep it regardless of the holidays. I had a few emails back and forth with Storenvy about setting up a separate APO/FPO shipping category for Military because I would really like to provide free shipping on all Military orders regardless of the amount spent. I was told my suggestion was added to a list for a future update! Awesome customer service by the staff at Storenvy. I was impressed they even took the time to message me back. It made me even happier to be using their platform. Thanks to Cody from Lu & Ed for the suggestion. I received an awesome suggestion from Aradia's Hand about making Fairytale Princess bags. I have it some thought and wasn't sure it was the direction I wanted to go in. Then later that day I was in the shower and I was thinking about it and wondering what I could do other than embroider or applique bags for fairytales and I thought....well what if I made a bag that looked like each character. So I spent the rest of the night brainstorming and sketching each character if they were a bag or purse. Still confused? Ask yourself this..."If Snow White were a purse, what kind of purse would she be and what would she look like?" And with that inspiration I came up with these sketches. Not all of them are Princesses. I am just going with Fairytale characters. See one I don't have. Make a suggestion in the comments!

I picked up the fabrics to make the samples. Can you guess which fabric is which character?

I cooked yesterday. Most of the day actually. And took pics so that I can post my homemade perogie recipe for all of you. I am hoping to have it up by tomorrow night. Lastly, I went to one of my favorite local fabric shops today called Fabric Hut. It's a bit of a drive from my house but it was worth it. It's an impressively large fabric store. One side is all apparel and the other cotton. In the center are notions and knitting. They even have a machine department and specialize in Elna. I don't know much about those machines but they are dealer manufactured and that is always a better quality machine. This is the kind of store that stocks every single color made by Kona. Every. Single. Color. I love to wander around the rainbow rows of fabric and look at the thousands of bolts. Today I fell into a sea of chevron and came home with these fat quarters. Hello chevron beauties.

I have a long list of things that need done. Finishing touches on some custom projects and lots of orders going out in the mail next week! Take care!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's a miracle! I can see!

I wear glasses. I'm nearsighted, which means I can see things close up better than far away. I have about a two-foot range without glasses then the blobs appear. It's kind of like being close up to a Monet painting. I also have light eyes so I am heavily affected by too bright and dim lights.

My studio is in a room on the back of the house. It was built as a guest room with its own access door to the downstairs bath, but it was perfect for a craft room. What we didn't know was that it is the hottest room in the house in the Summer and already the chilliest this Fall. (We just moved in this past April and haven't spent a Winter here yet.) It is probably safe to assume it will be cold in the Winter. I can handle all of that. Fans, less clothes, more clothes, throw blanket, sweaters. I'm prepared.

What isn't good, is that all Summer I had decent light between my lamps and the Summer sun. As Fall has crept in, and the sun shifted in the sky, I noticed that during the day I was practically pushing my face down to the needle on the machine. And I kept stitching navy thread onto black fabric. One time it was orange onto red. Not good and not the contrast stitching I was going for. And then Daylight Savings Time arrived. And I almost immediately started working more at night so that I "had more light." Utter madness. Then I realized that part of my problem was lighting.

The only rooms in our house that have overhead lighting are the bathrooms, laundry room, pantry, kitchen, diningroom and master bedroom. This is crazy. What do builders have against overhead lighting? I like to see things and not try to sew or read like I'm Abe Lincoln getting my learnin' by candlelight. There are certain modern conveniences I really enjoy: indoor plumbing, whole house heat/air conditioning, washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers and electricity. And I don't just mean electricity to power things, I mean the ability to produce light. As pretty as the gas lamps in Savannah were, I love a lightbulb.

A funny thing has happened with lightbulbs in the last several years. Maybe longer, I'm not a historian on lightbulbs. In an effort to help the environment and global warming, the industry has started producing bulbs that give off less heat and use less energy. I think that's great, I am all for helping. But the tradeoff is also less light. Now it's not the same as candles, which are dangerous and can burn your house down but often the lighting conditions are about the same. I have been in some people's homes where they compensated by having a gazillion (accurate estimation but not really that many) lamps. So basically they are still using a ton of electricity and giving off the same amount if not more heat. I'm not Edison but that sounds like there's a glitch in the system. The bonus though, is that their bulbs will last longer than a goldfish.

I had such bulbs in my studio. They're referred to as "soft" light. Some stuff about the light being diffused....blah, snore....I still can't see and now I feel like my eyes are degenerating. I noticed that sometimes I was trying to light everything with my tiny Ott light. That poor baby can barely light itself, as much as it tries but it is not a large area lamp. I have two standing floor lamps. The one we all had in college that you screw together except this is the sudo-adult version and not made of meltable plastic. It has a three way setting. And I have one of those wacky standing lamps with five wiggly arms and different colored shades. It was on sale at Target and I needed a lamp, don't judge me. So between the two standing lamps that's SIX "soft" light bulbs. SIX. Which was just not cutting it.

One day, the proverbial lightbulb went on over my head. (Oooh, bad pun Jess. Shame on you.) And I thought, if the Ott light provides such great light then I will get bulbs like that for the other lamps. Yea, those babies are almost $10 a piece, multiply by six. Oh no. I can't justify $60 in lightbulbs no matter how badly I wanted them. So I went to Lowe's.

I really like Lowe's. They make it easy for us to use our military discount. Home Depot made us register and they always have to look up our account when we try to use it. At Lowe's I just show my ID. Novel concept, I know. At Lowe's, I learned there are 652 (give or take) different kinds of lightbulbs. I just stood there dumb-founded as Hubs went to do man things and look at tools. There was a guy there doing the same things and we had the following conversation.

Me: This is ridiculous.
Comrade: I don't even know where to begin.
Me: Remember when there were just watts and you picked the highest one you saw and were done with it?
Fellow Sad Bulb Shopper: I just want light.
FSBS's Toddler: You have red hair like Raggedy Andy.
Me: Do you know anything about lightbulbs?
Mini Person: Red.
Me: That's what I thought.

After what seemed like an eternity a nice Lowe's employee came over and said, "You look like you need help." Also something that NEVER happens in Home Depot. I am usually wondering around looking for someone in an orange apron when I'm there. Lowe's employee asked me what my lighting needs were and proceeded to educate me on the bulbs. He informed me that I should get bulbs labeled Natural Daylight where the package indicates that it produces "cool" light and is 5000K. He said this would mimic the sun at noon. Thank you helpful Lowe's employee. Thank you.

I picked up the Utilitech 4-Pack (60W) Spiral Candelabra Base Daylight (5000K) CFL Bulbs for the sqiggle lamp and a 3-Way of the same type for the other lamp. I took before and after pics with my new camera. I used no filters and no exposure settings. I took pics with the soft white bulbs in and immediately changed them and took pics with the natural daylight bulbs in. The difference is phenomenal. I can see so clearly I want to put them all over the house. I should also point out that these new bulbs are the same wattage as the old ones. So there was no wattage trickery on my part either, just the change between soft white and natural daylight. My other bulbs were also CFL.

You can judge for yourself. These pics were taken at 3pm today. You can see it is also sunny outside. If you click on each pic you can view it larger.

Here is each part of the room with the soft white bulbs.

And here is the glorious after.

Amazed? Me too. I keep going in there to turn the lights on and just look at the difference. I would recommend you all do yourself a favor and get natural daylight bulbs for your work and/or reading area. It is an improvement you should definitely invest in and your eyes will thank you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meet Me

Hello there!

Look at me, I started a blog. I assume you came here wondering who I am and what this is all about.  Let's start with me.

I make things. More specifically, I sew, hand embroider and machine embroider. Mostly purses/bags and some home decor. I am always brainstorming for new ideas.

This is me.

I'm a Pittsburgh native and moved to Virginia Beach in 2010. My husband is in the Navy and recently we purchased our first home in Chesapeake.

I first started sewing in middle school. Every six weeks we switched to a different shop/home ec/art type class and one of them was sewing. The first couple of years we did things like plastic canvas cross stitch and latch hook. Personally, I enjoyed wood and metal shop more. Then probably around seventh grade we finally got to use the sewing machines. It was great and I wanted to make everything I could think of, and I had even asked for a machine for home. My joy was short lived because the teacher was scary and was always screaming at everyone. So by the time Christmas came and I was asked if I still wanted a sewing machine, I said no.

Fast forward about 16 years. I had lost a large amount of weight and all of my clothes were saggy and baggy. I didn't really have enough money to replace them, so what's a girl to do? I borrowed a friend's sewing machine. It was her Grandmother's and this baby was heavy. It may have been made entirely of metal. I definitely showed some muscle lugging that brut up three flights of stairs to my apartment. And with no training or apparel experience, I proceeded to take in all of my clothes. I also made my Halloween costume that year too!

And then that was the end of that for about seven years. A lot can happen in seven years. I got a couple of college degrees in Accounting and Business Management. I supervised the Accounting Department for a Telecom company and I managed to fall in love and move to Virginia. You never really know where life is going to send you, but sometimes you just have to go with it.

In May of 2011, Hubs left for a seven month deployment. I didn't really know anyone here and I wasn't working at the time, so I found myself with a lot of free time. I owned a sewing machine and for my birthday that April I had asked for a serger. I'm not sure why, since I hadn't sewn anything in years, but I suppose I had good intentions.  So I pulled them out and set them up. I then spent days and days online finding patterns and going to Joann's for fabric and thread. I read book after book on how to sew. Finally, after several weeks of "research" I sat down and made a bag for a friend's birthday present.

We call it the Dead Bears Bag and she still carries it to this day. It is well loved. And I didn't use one of those hundreds of patterns I looked through. I do have a pattern for it though. Mostly because she has asked me to make four more since that time. I plan on posting a tutorial for it one day.

So I kept sewing and sewing. And before I knew it, I had a tote full of bags. A lot of people got purses for Christmas last year. A lot. Thankfully they still use them. But, I still had a ton left and kept making more. I talked and talked about opening a store online and just didn't. I also taught some classes on making purses at a local quilting shop.

In February of last year, I upgraded from a Sears off the shelf Singer sewing machine and a Brother off the shelf serger to a BabyLock sewing machine, as well as a serger. These machines are amazing. And it really does change the quality of your work to have a good machine that is properly calibrated and timed to create beautiful stitches. Because of the change in the quality of my work I opened a shop. It was casual and a when I had time, kind of venture. In the last few months I have taken it on full-time and am working hard to design new and fun things that I hope people will love. You can get to the shop from the link at the top of the page!

Most recently, I purchased a Brother embroidery machine. It's amazing. I love being able to add designs to my creations. I have also started learning to digitize my own artwork to stitch out on the machine too! It's a lot of fun to see a drawing come to life in stitches as the machine runs.

I hope that I am able to share things with you that are amusing, interesting and that you want to read. Please ask me any questions you would like. I tend to be an open book. And follow me on Twitter and Facebook for more fun pictures and posts!

Until next time!