December 20, 2012

On the Woes (and the Woeful) USPS.

Each day at work, as the woman at the front desk, I receive the mail from our mail carrier. It always comes wrapped in two huge rubber bands, even when it’s just a couple pieces of mail. I chuckle at it, chuck them in my top drawer, and proceed with sorting the mail.

Yesterday I had some extra time on my hands, so I was organizing that top drawer. I put all the paper clips in their place, arranged the binder clips, made sure I had enough replacement staples on hand, checked my tape stock. Then, I got to my mound of industrial-size rubber bands.

I’ll make them into a rubber band ball, I thought.

(This is not my personal rubber band ball.)

I’ve always wanted to try one. Well, as I was creating this every growing ball-o-rubber, it occured to me that this was yet another mark of how the USPS is woefully inefficient.

Nevermind that I’ve been fruitlessly on hold with them more times than I can count for various shipping and (non)receiving reasons. Nevermind that each person I talk to–from our carrier, to the local post office, to the corporate post office–has a different “rule” on how I’m supposed to do package pickup, and what qualifies for a pickup. Nevermind that my residential mail carrier has often not dropped off a package because “no one was at home”…even though I’m in an apartment building that makes a point to always keep someone at the front desk who receives packages.

Nope–it was the rubber bands that did it.

I looked it up, and the average carrier makes 500 stops, so let’s go with that number. If we assume my office’s mail carrier has two rubber bands on each batch of mail to each stop on his route, that’s 1000 rubber bands that are being distributed by the USPS per day for this one route alone. Over the span of a month, that’s 30,000 rubber bands.

On (the cheapest place I can always think of), rubber bands like those are $2.78 for a pack of 185. (I’m not a math person, so bear with me now.) If we assume a wholesale price of $1.00 per 185 (and I’m being generous here), that means that, per month, the USPS is spending $162 on rubber bands for our one mail carrier’s route alone. That’s $1945 per year, just for this ONE route, devoted to rubber bands.

The funny part? The rubber bands don’t really help–we often get the wrong mail thrown in there.

What if they only used one rubber band instead of two? What if our mail carrier took them off before handing the mail to me, and just threw them back into his bag to be reused?

Just saying 🙂

December 18, 2012

On The Hobbit…and CGI vs. Humans.

Filed under: On Observing. — Tags: , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 1:20 pm

*Geek warning* 🙂

Well, I went to get see The Hobbit on Friday. I did the “lame version”–no 3D, no HFR, just a good ol’ screen and a packed theater.

Backtracking, I loved the Lord of the Rings movies. They are my favorite series of books (yes, I read them before the movies came out), and I was impressed with how excellently they were rendered on screen. Yes, it was more dramatic at points, yes, I missed Tom Bombadil like crazy, and yes, I know the elves don’t actually come to help at Helm’s Deep. But I thought the essence was there, the feel the stories were still richly alive, and Peter Jackson made beautiful sense out of books that were certainly unusual, as far as the arch of a story goes.

So, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw The Hobbit. I read some very mixed reviews beforehand, which only made me more confused. Some people thought there were too much time spent on the dwarves; others felt they weren’t characterized enough. Some felt that the movie was too long; others were okay with that. Some felt it was too lighthearted; others thought it was too serious for what was orginally a childen’s story.

I ended up taking umbridge with none of these debates. I liked the dwarves and thought they did a good job balancing the characterization with keeping the movie flowing. Yes, it was a really long movie–I pissed off our theater neighbors by creeping out of our aisle after Gollum’s scene to go pee (which, on a side note, was kind of sad, because that was the best moment of the whole film and I spent those ten minutes doing a seated rendition of the potty dance)–and I thought some of it could have been moved to the extended special edition on video, where I could have paused the movie and peed before Gollum came onscreen. Finally, I liked the balance between the light tone of the episodic dwarf quest and the dark undertone of brewings that would eventually come to fruition in LOTR.

What hit me the most, and frankly, made me sad, was how much CGI Peter Jackson used throughout the movie. Most notable was Azog, the albino orc nemesis of Thorin, being heavily CGIed (in a Gollum-type fashion). While I was fine with the additional pieces to this saga (seriously, can’t give me too much of Middle Earth…except maybe Radagast. He discredited all the scenes he was in by being, and looking, so stupid!) it drove me BATTY that he was all CGI. Every time I saw him, I could TELL he was CGI, and it threw me out of the world entirely. For example, compare him to the main Uruk-hai (who kills Boromir) from LOTR Part 1 (sorry I couldn’t find better pics!):

Azog (left-most orc)


Just because the CGI technology is out there doesn’t mean you have to use it for everything possible–the most effective movies are the ones where it’s integrated with the real, not replacing it. By putting an actual person through the process of makeup, you actually get something so much more realistic. And really, it’s not just Azog, it’s the whole movie that has this issue. Orcs are now all CGI, sets are all CGI, and it feels as though the integration of real and CGI was rushed. Honestly, I thought that LOTR, from ten years before, had better special effects.

So, this is certainly an enjoyable movie for those who would like to traverse back into Middle Earth, but it’s missing some crucial magic that’s keeping it from excellence. I’ll probably still buy the extended version when it comes out on DVD (let’s face it, you know there will be an extended version), but I can tell you that, at the end of the movie, all I wanted to do was watch LOTR to see how it should be done. And I did watch it right after, and it was much, much better.

December 17, 2012

On a Crafty Weekend!

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:36 am

I got my craft on this weekend!

First, after a stalled-out Etsy shop (slow times happen to me at the weirdest times!), I got two orders in two days! The first was a pair of fingerless gloves, which are always fun to make.

The other was for a custom kitten! Not just any kitten though–there’s a bit of a story behind this one. Apparently, there is (or was) an online game called “Glitch.” The developers are taking the game down, and someone was interested in having a crocheted version of the cat character from this game, called “Heli Kitteh.” They showed me a screen shot from the game of the kitten, and I got to work! The recipient loved it, and I already got another order for it!

Also, I can’t post pics yet because I also did this craft for some relatives who have not received it yet (don’t want to spoil the surprise!) but I did 10 gifts for everyone at my office, AND baked cookies for them! Due to a miscommunication with the notes on my cookie recipe, I misjudged how many cookies the recipe would make, and instead of getting 160, like I expected, I got 260 cookies! (Needless to say, there are a LOT in the freezer now!) All of that took up most of the weekend, but it was certainly worth it–I love my workplace and everybody I work with, so I was more than happy to share the joy!

Finally, I wrapped all the finace’s gifts! He has a nice little pile under our tree now :).

Have you been crafty this weekend?

December 13, 2012

On DIY Mania…Post-Christmas.

Let’s all just start by admitting that Pinterest is addictive.

Helpful, yes. Interesting, yes. A fantastic way to share things with my best friends regarding style, wedding, and clothing ideas, even though they’re states away? Yes.

However, it also awakens a (not so latent) need to always be creative. I want to make everything. And so the DIY Pinterest board began.

Since it’s Christmastime and I certainly won’t have the time for myself before the big day comes along (let’s ignore the fact that I go back to school in January, and therefore probably won’t have time after Christmas, anyway), I have a little list of DIY projects for myself once the new year begins. (And side note, 2013, really? Where has the time gone? In my head, when I calculate years that have passed, I still always assume it’s 2000 for some reason. 2013 just sounds strange…like we’re all in a sci-fi movie….which is making me want to watch Firefly…getting off track now, I know.)

So, here’s my DIY list for the new year:

Crochet Hook Holder

This really does not look that hard, although there was no attached tutorial in the pin I found. I have a sewing machine, seems like you buy some material, a little lace, and go to town! (Ask me if I feel this way when I actually attempt it. My sewing machine and I do not always see eye-to-eye.)

Knitted Lace Socks

(Pattern here.)

I have had these on my pinboard…well…just about since I got a Pinterest account. I actually took a step forward and bought the yarn for them the last time I was at Michael’s, but with the push to add items in my Etsy shop for Christmas, I just haven’t gotten around to working on something for myself. (In that respect, my scarf hat is still right where it was when I last blogged about it, as well. I know…it’s going to be spring before I get my act together. The fiance keeps telling me I have to actually do something for myself for a change. Gotta get around to that :))

Canvas Shoes

These just look really cool. Another Etsy blogger, the awesome Vivid Please, supplied a tutorial for these awhile back, and darned if I just haven’t gotten around to it. I will in the new year, I swear!

Mason Jar Herb Garden


I’d like to do a variation on this. My fiance and I get a lot of tea in the really pretty tins you see at Trader Joe’s and Giant Eagle Market District, and I won’t let him just throw the tins away because they’re so cute! (Yes, I have a cute clutter problem.) I think this would be a great way to reuse them, and a great alternative to having them sitting on a table somewhere, because we are just out of room!

Well, that’s my list for now :). I’m trying to keep it manageable so I’ll actually get to it! If you want to check out everything else I’ve been thinking of, come on over to my Pinterest DIY board.

Do you have any DIY lined up?

December 11, 2012

On Some Things to Look Forward To.

I got busy with my hook this weekend and started two new patterns for two exciting things to come in the shop!

The first is a pair of boot cuffs. This pattern was more challenging to create than I had expected. First, I’m not the best mannequin for them, because I think my calves run slightly larger than your average calf (all those years of dance class!). Second, I wanted a good blend between an interesting pattern and something that didn’t take forever to work up. I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out! (And, of course, I had to add a bit of scalloping at the top :))


Second, I hopped on the start of a newish bandwagon–move over moustaches, peter pan collars are up next! I’ve loved the look of a peter pan collar on cardigans and blouses for a good long time now, and then I started seeing some necklaces that mimic that design. Well, I took it a step further and crocheted a peter pan collar! I absolutely love the way it turned out–the pattern kind of fell right into place naturally, without much redoing on my part to get it the way I wanted it. I’ve ordered some great buttons for it, so I just have to wait for them to come in to start listing on Etsy!



What were you working on this weekend?

December 10, 2012

On Mondays and Making Smiles.

Filed under: On Observing. — Tags: , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 1:36 pm

Sometimes, you just need a Monday pick-me-up.

If you’re feeling that way, here’s a photographic list of silly, pointless, goofy (and one or two serious) things that are making me smile today:

1) This T-Shirt (discovered by my future sister-in-law):

2) These people, who are clearly having a bad day. (I know it’s bad, but if you can laugh at yourself because you did something stupid, you can also laugh at other people for doing something stupid. Just don’t get mad when they laugh back at you.)

3) Ron’s emotional range (just re-watched this one last night):

4) The knowledge that my fiance is a really awesome person and the antithesis of this:

(But, in seriousness, a great, practical article on how to make a marriage thrive.)

5) This baby:

6) The way my best friends and I play board games:

7) Christmas Joy. This was my Amazon shopping cart this weekend for a Toys for Tots drive. I got warm fuzzies just thinking of the recipients of those bears!
toys for tots

8) My favorite minions:

9) I’ve been doing this for the past two weeks, and I feel fantastic!

10) This viral Facebook post, which has been floating around all day today:

“I know today is Monday and you assume it’s going to suck, but according to statistics, there will be over 5,000 weddings, 10,000 childbirths, and 42 million hugs occurring today throughout the United States. Also today, there will be at least 4 people that will win the multimillion dollar lotteries, 600 people will get promotions at work, and 3,000 people will lose their virginity. There will also be 600 dogs adopted, 35,000 balloons sold, and 800,000 skittles eaten. Plus, the words “I love you” will be said over 9 million times. So again, I know today is Monday and you assume it’s going to suck, but just smile, because according to statistics, it should actually be a really nice day.”

What’s making you smile today?

December 5, 2012

On Prepping for a Favorite Things Party.

Yes, like Oprah 🙂

As I mentioned in my last post about the Harry Potter party, my friends really like being crafty. We routinely have themed parties, and when we all lived in the same state, we’d scrapbook together often. This year for Christmas, we decided a favorite things party would be the perfect twist on the traditional grab bag and we could have lots of fun in the process :).

In short, a favorite things party is where you bring your favorite things! For us, we chose to bring 3 $10 favorite things (as in, we bought/made three of the same gift, spending about $10 on each one). We’ll pull names out of a hat to see who gets who’s gifts.

I had a smidgen of trouble coming up with my favorite thing. These are my oldest, dearest friends (we’ll be celebrating our deccenial friendaversary this year…..long story) and so nothing I pick would really be a surprise. In addition, although I was supposed to bring MY favorite thing, I certainly wanted the recipients to enjoy it, as well! And, of course, I wanted to be cute and crafty.

However, I ended up deciding on something I’m really excited about, and you’ll get to see it after our favorite things party! For now, here’s some things I ended up NOT picking…just in case you’re looking for ideas yourself!

1) A book.

(I nixed this because I wanted to be more creative, but reading is certainly one of my favorite things!)

– Book (Perhaps The Night Circus?)

– Bookmark

2) Pamper Your Hands

– Nail polish.

– Hand lotion. My favorite scent is Bath and Body Works’ “Twilight Woods”:

– Nail file

3) Crocheting

(Had to nix this because the coupon for a tutorial wouldn’t have been effective, as I live states away from the rest of my friends at the moment!)

– Yarn

– Crochet Stitch Markers

– Coupon for crochet lessons from your truly

4) Pittsburgh

(My home town. Need I say more?)

– I didn’t have the details of this one quite figured out, but I thought perhaps a mug and ornament that both had the city skyline (or the Steelers!) on them.

5) Organization Lover

– Made a DIY to-do frame, using the tutorial here:

– A 2013 calendar, with photos of my friends and me in it.

6) My Friends

(Cheesy, but they’re my favorite, too!)

– A 3 4×6 opening frame with pictures of us inside through the years of our friendship.

Have you ever done a favorite things party? What would be your favorite thing?

December 3, 2012

On a Harry Potter Party.

I have an excellently phenomal group of close friends, and we love having parties together. In fact, this Christmas we’re jumping on the good old bandwagon and having a “favorite things” party. Later this week, I’ll let you in on what favorite things I didn’t pick (don’t want to ruin the surprise!), and in January, I’ll fill you in on the whole party, but for now, I want to backtrack to our last themed party.

For one of my friend’s birthday last year, we had a Harry Potter themed party. I started everyone out with a button:

The button was also the Sorting: the back of each button said what house you belonged to.

Our appetizers were Broomsticks, Anti-Dementor Medicine, and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans:


We had some delicious (grown-up) Butterbeer, as well (cream flavored pinnacle vodka, cream soda, butterscotch snapps, and then a little scoop of vanilla ice cream for foam). For meals, we had garlic broomsticks (Pilsbury cresent rolls un-rolled and shaped into brooksticks), chicken, and Yorkshire Pudding.


For dessert, we offered Snitches (yes, the wings are Fritos :)):


Here’s the whole spread (with Gryffindor colors, naturally!):


And, to top it off, there were lots of owls (balloons) presiding over the party!

With Harry Potter films in the background, and great friends, you just can’t go wrong!

Are you having any themed parties this holiday season?

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