Posts Archived From: 'December 2013'

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Using Digital to Tell an Analog Story

This blog post originally began as an overview of my new digital camera. In celebration of turning thirty-five earlier this month, I used a portion of my birthday money toward the Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR camera. While I enjoy taking photos just for fun, the purchase was also made to improve the quality of photos here on


We know the writing for years has been flawless (ha!). However, I say with all truthfulness that since Grain & Mortar gave a much needed design overhaul, I often felt that my blog’s (primarily iPhone) photography was subpar and, at times, distracting.


With great excitement I purchased my first Canon and debuted its image quality with my recent knitting blog post. (This one’s my favorite!)


Then, on Christmas Eve, I unboxed this beauty from my husband. (And shortly thereafter, grabbed my new Canon.)




A vintage Underwood typewriter.


I gasped not only when I ripped open the festive wrapping, but also when I attempted to remove it from the box. It weighs a ton! For years I have longed for an older model typewriter, something tying me to my journalist’s roots. And this Christmas, Matt answered that call in the best way possible.


The Missouri Valley, Iowa, antique dealer who sold Matt the Underwood isn’t a typewriter expert and couldn’t pass along much information about its origin.




I share these photos not only to brag on my new analog beauty, but to pose a handful of questions to you, dear readers and fellow typewriter fanatics. What more can you tell me about this model? How old do you suppose it is? And, where can I purchase a new ribbon? (All of the keys appear to work just fine.)




I find myself tap-tap-tapping away at the old typewriter keys – yes, the little bell even works! – and daydreaming of all the ways I’ll use my new Underwood.




For a writer who has only written on computers, telling a story on such an old machine will serve as a lesson in patience. Typing doesn’t come as quickly when the keys stand sprightly and stiff-necked.


Yet somehow I know the experience will be just as magical – if not more so – as typing the tens of thousands of words I have thus far on my beloved MacBook Air and all of the Macintoshes that have come before.





Colorful Stitches for Christmas

Since learning to knit late last year, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to begin knitting pieces for family and friends. (Well, OK. Let me stop right there. Even more exciting than knitting is shopping for yarn. Am I right? So many colors! And textures! And weights! Honestly, my head becomes a just a little dizzy thinking about it.)


But back to the knitting. By the time I mastered the standard knit stitch, it was nearly Valentine’s Day, which meant any knitted gifts for Christmas would have to wait another ten months. So I perfected the basics and my technique, stockpiled yarn to the point of hoarding, subscribed to a million knitting blogs and email newsletters, and yes, even opened the virtual doors to a modest online shop through Etsy.




Fellow knitters, crafters, and DIY-ers can understand my delight when, earlier this year as July became August and the days grew longer, I slowly began planning my knitted gifts for the Christmas season. Given the fact that Christmas is only five days away and I’m fairly certain the recipients of my handiwork read my blog, I’ll keep my lips sealed on the details of the aforementioned gifts. (For now.)


However, I can tell you that after grabbing my eyeglasses each morning I immediately reach for my knitting needles. The past few weeks they’ve rarely been empty. When I’m not knitting, I find myself thinking about knitting.




It’s a wonderful way to relax, unwind, and ignite my creativity. Just shopping for yarn provides enough motivation that I often leave Hancock Fabrics, Michel’s, Hobby Lobby, and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft with multiple projects on my to-knit list. When I learned about Lion Brand Yarn’s new Unique yarn, I was drawn by the variety of color and pattern just one skien effortlessly provides.




I began experimenting with a basic scarf. The Unique yarn provided a lighter weight than my trusted Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, but with a gorgeous variety of hues. Rarely have I knitted with needles smaller than US 11, so I was skeptical how the final product would look. Now that my Unique (pun intended) scarf is complete, I couldn’t be happier. The ombre effect is beautiful, the texture is soft, the weight is light, and the stitches are flawless. The red/maroon/navy combination is perfect for the bolder colors of winter; however, I’m eager to try Unique’s other colors in the coming months.




Next month I’ll provide an overview of Lion Brand’s other newer yarn, Heartland.

What’s on your crafting table in these final days before Christmas?


Editor’s note: This blog post was published in collaboration with Lion Brand Yarn. Follow Lion Brand Yarn on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube for more knitting inspiration. 


Untying Emotion: Tyler Knott Gregson

One of the great things about Twitter is the peaceful, meandering jaunt on which I often find myself. A few gentle scrolls of my mouse and away I go, clicking on a retweet to a website that, until this moment, was foreign.


That’s precisely how, earlier this year via Twitter, I stumbled upon the typewriter poetry of Tyler Knott Gregson. With analog typography and emotions so stark and searing you find yourself, at times, holding your breath while reading, Tyler’s blog has become a popular destination for writers, readers, lovers, and creators. (He’s even popular on Pinterest. Tyler’s Typewriter Series board has nearly 18,000 followers.)


After several hours clicking through his previous works, the charities he supports, his awe-inspiring outdoor photography, and his life living with Asperger syndrome, the journalist in me had a handful of questions for Tyler. Not the least of which included: How do you do all of this? What’s the source of your continual creativity? And why are you drawn to typewriters?


Read on for my recent Q&A with Tyler Knott Gregson.


WT: Let’s begin with your background. Where did you grow up, and where do you call home today?

TKG: I grew up all over the United States as my dad was in professional baseball. We would live half the year in Montana, where I currently live, and the other half wherever my dad’s team happened to be that year. We traveled A LOT growing up, non-stop.


Describe a few of your fondest childhood memories, ones that you reflect upon and revisit even today.

Holidays always stand out, as they’ve always been huge to my family and they never really lost the magic. Besides that, the way I grew up was so inspiring because we were constantly on the go and constantly meeting new people in new places. Seeing the whole range of the country.


Typewriter Series #620 by Tyler Knott Gregson


When did you first begin to dabble in poetry?

I think, besides writing poetry for elementary school projects and such, my first poetry written for no other reason than for me just to write was when I was 12 years old. I loved it and it kind of took off and I haven’t stopped since. I just have too many words inside, and they have to come out.


When did you begin making your poetry public? And, what has been the response from readers?

I started blogging back in 2003 with Blogger and would occasionally share my poetry, but it wasn’t really until my Daily Haiku on Love series that people really began to notice and to read. I never expected the snowball effect that has occurred, and I am still shocked by it today. The response has been overwhelming and fantastic, but, as always, there are those who really don’t like what I do, or why I do it. People like what they like and they don’t what they don’t, and so I’ve always just written for me, because it helps me.


How do you create your poems? Do you own a typewriter and scan your works? Is it Photoshop? Something else?

I use a Remington Rand Seventeen typewriter (made in 1928, I believe) and I use scraps of paper I find all over the place to type the poetry on. Then I scan them in, and make them into files I can post online. It’s all done analog until I need to get them on the computer.


I understand that you live with Asperger’s. Tell me more about this condition and how it impacts your life.

I think the things inside us all that make us who we are — be they disabilities, conditions, whatever — are what will turn us into the people we are meant to be. I think my creativity comes from this. From the fact that I don’t have a filter and I feel and see things ‘uncensored,’ in a way. I have always believed it is part of what allows me to see the world as magic, all the time. Fresh eyes, always fresh eyes I am seeing things through.


Typewriter Series #602 by Tyler Knott Gregson

Typewriter Series #602 by Tyler Knott Gregson

What is your philosophy as a creative? How do you approach creative projects?

I have always believed that true creativity comes from not being taught how to do it. I know many would disagree, but for me, I was always terrified when it comes to creative endeavors, that being taught by someone would inherently make my creative work like theirs. It would be painted in their hues, sound like their words, or resemble their photographs.


I never wanted that, so I self-taught myself on everything. I think creativity is just letting all the things inside you out, and trying your best not to filter them.


Share with me details of your work as a photographer.

I have a photography company,, with my amazing and wonderful partner, Sarah Linden. We shoot mainly weddings, but we photograph everything and we do so all over the world. It’s an absolute joy and it’s our most favorite thing to do and we love traveling and meeting new people. What an amazing thing to be with people on their absolute best days.


His eyes are smiling: Tyler Knott Gregson wears a beanie in support of the charity Krochet Kids.


Complete the following sentence: “On a cold and snowy Sunday afternoon, I prefer nothing more than …”

Drinking a ton of tea, looking out my big front windows, and watching the snow fall down on to the city below me. Reading a book, watching a movie, laying under a blanket, and just taking a deep breath.


Favorite comfort food?

Once again I would probably have to say tea. I love tea: cold, hot, whatever, I love it. And avocados. I love avocados.


Name three books that have taught you the most.

The book that got me started on Buddhism: The Teachings of Buddha. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. And the last is technically a young adult book, but The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.


Eat This: Did Someone Say Nutella?

Certain recipes and I have become the very best of friends.

(Thanks, Pinterest!)

Which is not to say that I fancy myself a good cook. Far from it. I’m an average cook who has a penchant for order, which means I can follow directions (structure) to the letter.


Any number of the recipes I’ve posted in this special space are among my favorites and those I’m best at preparing. I feel it my responsibility to share such recipes with my readers who pine to perform in the kitchen, but aren’t always certain where to start.

Which brings me to Nutella.

Yes, Nutella. That creamy, sweet, gooey, curiously wonderful, hazelnut spread that some love and some loathe. I wouldn’t call Nutella a replacement for peanut butter (it’s not), but rather a scrumptious condiment I dare you to try if you haven’t already done so.

Don’t let the brown coloring fool you. It’s sweet, but not sweet like chocolate.

Those who love Nutella will back me up. Fork over the four dollars, buy yourself a small tub, and spread it on toast or a banana (my favorite). If you don’t immediately follow that by eating the rest with a serving spoon, you’ll have enough Nutella left to make this delectable recipe that I have made three times in the past two weeks.


These cookies are far beyond the beloved chocolate chip cookies you know and love, so take advantage of this cookie gifts delivered service and surprise your family. They take dessert (or, if I’m completely honest, breakfast) in a wonderful new dimension and direction.

I present to you Nutella Lava Cookie Cups by Julie Chiou of the too-cute-for-words food blog Table for Two.

Trust me when I say this recipe is worth bookmarking and baking throughout the year. It may take a bit more handiwork, but they’d also be adorable made using a pan of mini muffins. Don’t just keep special treats for the holidays! And be sure to have enough cold milk or hot chocolate on hand.

Knever Stop Knitting

It’s the holiday season, which means my fingers (when not texting or scrolling) have been busy knitting.


Can you keep a secret? A handful of family members will find knitted pieces under the tree this year. Which means shopping for yarn has never been more gratifying or adventurous.


There, I said it: shopping for yarn is an adventure!


Then there are the pieces I’m knitting for charity, those for close friends, and the orders from my Etsy shop.


I’m finding (and sharing) color, texture, and design inspiration from Pinterest, #knitting, and Instagram, of course, but also in the countless catalogs clogging my mailbox. It’s a sensory-overload time of year, yet I couldn’t be happier.


And speaking of good cheer, I’m excited to mention another partnership with Lion Brand Yarns. You may recall Lion Brand’s involvement earlier this year when I hosted an afternoon of newbie knitters.


Next month I’ll try my (knitting) hands at two of Lion Brand’s newest yarns, Unique and Heartland. Unique’s colorful tweed design has kept my wheels turning on a number of potential projects.


Watch for my post next month with a snapshot of my finished products.


‘Tis the season for everything handmade and DIY. Even the simplest and least expensive projects can make the best gifts. What are you crafting this month?



Attempting Daily Gratitude

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Saying “thank you.” Being thankful. Welcoming gratitude at whatever the day may bring.


This movement toward gratitude surfaced on Facebook the first of November. Suddenly hundreds of people were beginning their days with status updates focused on gratitude.


“Today I’m thankful for …”


To say I was tempted to join the conversation would be a true statement. Gratitude — in the best of times and the worst of times — is good for the soul. It centers you. It calms you. It reveals what matters most.



Rather than logging on to Facebook each morning, I reached instead for my favorite pen and a new pink journal. The journal was a gift from the Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska, thanking me for speaking at their YWE Lead Conference earlier this month. What better place to privately record thoughts of gratitude than within the pages of a thank-you gift?


The timing was just too perfect.


My first journal entry is dated November 2. I sat in front of my journal, a latte nearby, and just began writing. Journaling is something I’ve never quite felt comfortable doing. As a writer and journalist, my essays and articles have always been crafted for public consumption. Writing something for my eyes only rarely felt natural.



Yet I owned this new journal. Everyone around me (on Facebook) dug deep to identify gratitude. And I felt that I arrived at a place in my life where a greater focus on deeper, more meaningful issues were needed. So, I began to journal on the first blank page.


My most productive and creative hours occur before 9 a.m., which is why I strive to journal before work during the week, and before starting my day of errands and such on the weekends. Before picking up my pen and turning to a clean page, I’m certain to have a one-word answer to the question, What am I thankful today?


And then, I just write. Free writing. Unlike magazine articles and blog posts, I’ve given myself permission to write without an outline, to develop ideas as I go. From a writing perspective, I find it to be a foreign concept.


As I write about gratitude every day or two, I have unwittingly made discoveries about my own life, my behavior, my relationships with others. Such inward reflection wasn’t something I expected, but it has proven to be a welcomed byproduct. The little lessons I have learned just by putting pen to paper have made me grateful for simply that.


Our Overnight Outdoor Adventure

Last weekend Jessica, Ginger, and I braved the Great Outdoors (it is November in Nebraska, after all) with a stay at Slattery Vintage Estates Vineyard and Tasting Room about an hour from our homes in Omaha. We planned the glamping trip as a working retreat for COOP, but also as an opportunity to drink wine, eat good food, and just relax.


What we found upon arriving at Slattery Vintage Estates was nothing short of breathtaking. (Learn more about this Nebraska gem in my recent Q&A with co-owner Barb Slattery.) The scenery alone was satisfaction enough for me, even if all we did was sit outdoors and take it all in.


Gently rolling hills. Wide open sky. Crisp fall air. And silence. Silence so overwhelming it was a gift. No traffic. No sirens. Nary a ringing cell phone within ear shot.


It was wonderful.


Following a little brainstorming for COOP and a walk around the estate, we happened upon a proposal. The owners tipped us off, so we were certain to watch from afar. The proposal happened among the rows of Slattery’s wine vineyards. The day’s weather was picture perfect, creating the ideal setting for this memorable experience.


That evening, Slattery hosted its first trivia night.


>> What happened next? Continue reading my latest essay for COOP, an online lifestyle publication produced by Birdhouse Interior Design.


Why I Teach

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new academic year at my alma mater and part-time employer, the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I have taught for the university’s School of Communication since 2008. It was after my first year working toward a master’s degree that the school approached me about joining the ranks of adjunct faculty.


loved the university, loved my experience there as a student, and was eager to complete the master’s program. Add to that teaching undergraduate students about the basic tenants of journalism? How could I say no?


I began teaching Media Writing. As the name indicates, the course focuses heavily on newspaper writing and Associated Press Style.


It was during these first few semesters that I was reminded of my own personal passion for journalism. Seeing that excitement ignited in the eyes, heads, and hearts of undergraduates was satisfying and rewarding. uno-ash


Shortly thereafter, I was asked to consider teaching a different course. It was new at the time, with an emphasis on backpack journalism and Web 2.0.


What was once Online Media is today called Media Storytelling.


Each semester my 18 students become backpack journalists. They build their own news blogs using WordPress. They interact and engage using Facebook and Twitter. They write news stories. They shoot photos and make photo essays. They record interviews and produce news stories – using both audio and video.


The course is not easy. My students have a busy sixteen weeks that keeps them looking toward the next deadline. The semester whizzes by.


We discuss the news business and the business of making news. We examine current events. We interact. We share. We learn from one another.


And although I enjoy the summer months as much as any educator, there is a special spark that shines bright come August. I find myself excited to meet my new students. To learn about them. To hear their goals for the future and their thoughts on the state of our beloved industry.


As a former newspaper reporter myself, I long for the days when print journalism’s future wasn’t so uncertain. There are many times I find myself grieving for the craft that gave me such enjoyment and purpose.


When I discovered the world of newspapers during my senior year of high school, I was hooked. My time working for The Gateway, Papillion Times, and Bellevue Leader was glorious. It shaped me into the writer I have become today.


But it has been through teaching college journalism students that I now embrace today’s younger storytellers. True their fingers my not be smudged with greasy black ink – like mine once were – but their calling remains the same. They are inquisitive. They are creative. They are hardworking. And they want it all. It is my utmost pleasure to help them get it all.


Welcome back, students.


Editor’s note: Photos courtesy of Jane M. Sawyer and Charley Reed.


Our Cozy Hideaway

It’s the weekend!


What better time to sleep in. Or, if you color yourself an early bird like me, the ideal time to rise before the sun (sans an alarm), lounge in comfy PJs, enjoy a cup of coffee, and just putter away the morning. I love Saturday mornings especially when I have a tiny list of small things to tackle, not the least of which is a top priority. Matt will sleep in and I will read, or knit, or browse Pinterest.


Which is precisely why, when redesigning our bedroom, I strove for a cozy feel that wasn’t too masculine, wasn’t overtly feminine, but the perfect mix of rest, relaxation, and style.


I browsed through my entire library of digital photos – 1,474, to be precise – looking for a “before” photo of the bedroom. Sadly, I couldn’t find a single one! Not even an accidental snapshot.


What I can tell you about the space before is that the dresser and lone nightstand were oversized, the once-white mini-blinds were filthy and old, the walls were a poorly painted dark magenta, and the bedding was just too juvenile for a newly married couple in their early thirties.


And so, as with my previous home projects (my office and the living/dining room), I sought the expertise of Jessica McKay of Birdhouse Interior Design and the brainchild behind COOP. Knowing my style and budget, Jessica offered numerous suggestions on the directions our space could take.


Given the fact that my full-time job has me crisscrossing the country and sleeping in hotels on a weekly basis, it was imperative that our bedroom be a sanctuary with a bit of color here, a lot of cozy there. Matt and I couldn’t be more pleased with how the room looks today.


Although Matt’s first reaction when he saw the space? “It looks great. It looks just like a hotel!”


Which is a solid observation. Not just any hotel, however, but our hotel.

Our bedroom is a mixture of pieces that are vintage, handmade, and new. The bedding is from Macy’s, while the sheets, curtains, blanketlamp shades, and even digital alarm clock are by the Threshold line at Target. The side tables are from, while the mirror and jewelry bowl are from the Nate Berkus home furnishings line (again: Target!). The two orange throw pillows and two red candle holders were found on a shopping trip to HomeGoods, while the larger LOVE pillow is from Joss & Main. The dresser is from McMillan’s Antiques here in Omaha, while the swing-arm wall sconces are from The Home Depot. My favorite accents? The gold-dipped milk glass vases I found at Etsy. (Two are in the bedroom; the other three are scattered throughout the house.)





















Matching Wits with Julie and The Knits

Not long after I discovered the joy of knitting did I stumble upon the blog Julie and The Knits. Twitter, Pinterest, Google searches (and the like) introduced me to a number of crafty knitters, Julie Picard being among them.


Julie, a native of France, has used the web to share her truly adorable creations far and wide. Most recently, Julie’s knitted works have been lovingly featured in Gathered by Mollie Makes, a weekly iPad magazine on all things crafty and creative. (Yes, I’m a satisfied Gathered subscriber and eager julie-picard-polaroidreader!)


After following Julie from afar and exchanging knitting tips via social media, I realized there was plenty more I wanted to know about this fellow knitter from across the pond.


>> Also! One lucky reader will receive Julie’s custom knitted name accent, as featured in her Etsy shop. To win, simply comment below, being certain to include your email address and/or social media links. One winner will be selected at random. The giveaway closes on Friday, July 12. Good luck!


WT: Tell us a little bit about you and your background: where you grew up and where you call home.

JP: My name is Julie Picard and I live in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England. I was born in France and grew up in Normandy then 8 years ago, while I was studying English at Uni, I was offered a teaching job in the UK. It was supposed to be short term experience but I loved living in the UK so much that I decided to stay! France will always be home though and I miss my family and friends a lot – and of course the food!


What sparked your interest in knitting?

I first learned how to knit with my grandma who used to make me and my brother awesome Tintin and Astérix jumpers. I’ve always loved crafts and used to be an activity leader – I taught children how to make salt dough modelling, paper mobiles, jewelry, etc. – so ‘handmade’ has always been in my life. I picked up my knitting needles again a few years ago and have not left them out of my sight since! I work in social media and spend so much time in the virtual world these days that it feels good to go back to a traditional craft at the end of the day.




What is it about knitting that keeps you creating new patterns and new pieces?

The whole creation process is so personal and fulfilling – from having an idea for a new knit vaguely taking form in my head to seeing the finished product on someone. I’m not one to follow traditional patterns you get from the yarn shop – I find this boring! I try to come up with unusual ways of using wool. Original items such as the heart-shaped coasters and the knitted words are usually what catch people’s attention. The interest from my family, friends, and colleagues has been so positive and encouraging that it makes me want to try even harder! I also love when my customers challenge me to make something completely different, it’s so inspiring.




Where do you go to be creatively inspired?

I simply get inspired by the things I love most in life. I love animals and my little dog Spike is a great source of inspiration as well as the perfect model for my pet accessories. Fashion accessories, fabrics, and homeware also give me new ideas – I love browsing Pinterest and blogs. My other big love is Japan and I find the kawaii culture fascinating! Cute and quirky things make me happy. We might all own the same plant pot from Ikea, but mine has a rainbow cozy on it.




I discovered you via the Gathered iPad magazine. How did the relationship begin? And how has your knitting business and blog grown since then?

When I launched Julie And The Knits in 2012, I set up a Facebook page and used my Instagram account to show my work in progress. Instagram is my favourite platform, my visual journal and I have met the most amazing and sweet creative people on there. One day the editor from Gathered got in touch via Instagram and asked me to create a tutorial for one of my bow headbands and that’s how the relationship began. Mollie Makes is such an incredible magazine and I am honoured to feature in their iPad app.


Writing tutorials was such an exciting experience that I decided to create a blog – something I’ve always wanted to do but was too busy/lazy/didn’t know where to start – I’m loving it so far! I’m planning on creating more tutorials for my blog in the future and have been showcasing creative people that I love as well. It’s so important to support each other in the creative world. It means a lot to me and I’m so grateful that you asked me to feature on your blog, Wendy!




What’s your favorite comfort food?

Cheese and baguette. So cliché but oh so true!


What three books have you recently read?

I recently finished The Hunger Games trilogy and can’t wait for all the movies to come out now! I’ve also been reading Nick Kent’s The Dark Stuff, a collection of writings about rock music, which I’m a big fan of. I’m now reading a shojo manga called Vampire Knight. A varied bunch, basically.


Any final thoughts?

I love discovering new creative people and writing about them on my blog. So if you’re reading this and make anything cute or quirky, feel free to get in touch!


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