The Dearth of Social Media

I’m slowly coming back from a 10-day fast from Social Media. Some of my friends have done the same, making the 10-day fast not just a pity party of one, but really quite a social experiment.

Some of the results of this time period are eye-opening!

  1. Of course, I had more time on my hands that I felt obligated to fill, doing something else. Being a crafter, you’d think I’d have had lots more time to  make crafts. However, I cut back on watching You-tube videos of craft techniques because—You-tube is a form of social media. So my idea stream dried up a little.

Some of the activities that were suggested to do, rather than stare into the social media screen, included reading, exercising, cooking, communicating with real friends rather than virtual ones, hobbies, and cleaning.

Here’s another idea: decorating with LIVE Halloween decorations!

I downloaded a couple of new Kindle books and read them, but hey! I was still in the habitual posture of staring at a little screen. Reading a novel is different than reading the little sound-bites and meme captions that you work through for hours a day on Facebook and its cronies Instagram and Twitter. Is a novel, then, better? Am I a better person for sailing on a ship in an ocean of complex constructed plot lines with character development, rather than splashing in the puddles of meme expressions and punchlines?

2. During this time, we celebrated our anniversary, and I didn’t post a pic of these flowers on Instagram like I’ve done past years…

roses jenny skip anniversary roses

Skip is pretty good with sending beautiful flowers and spreading around a lot of happiness that way. But I couldn’t help wondering if posting the pics is…gulp…humble-bragging? Ugh, Social Media will catch you up in that.

3. Some of my “friends” posted that they were shocked when they realized how much time they spent on those chummy social sites, and they’re going to set a timer in the future. And what a coincidence, a new iOS came out during the 10-day fast, which now actually logs the amount of time I spend on the phone or tablet.  It divides the time into these  categories: Social Networking, Productivity, and Creativity. I can schedule time to stay away and set limits and restrict myself from certain things. I could probably find a way to fool it into recording something unproductive as productive, but what if it finds out I’m trying to buck the system? I don’t want to be made into an unfavorable example when the Singularity comes around.

4. I’m more aware of my humanness, since I also sustained a physical injury (spider bite?) during the social media fast, probably when I was gardening. That goes to show what happens when you leave the virtual world and try to participate in real-time activities!

spider bite jenny skip After about a week and a half

The first couple of days I had some serious aches and pains in my right armpit and felt like I was running a fever, but I wasn’t. It felt like a hard, tough miniature heat-infused hockey puck was underneath the bite.  As you can see, it’s right at the area my arm would rest on the desk while typing. I kept bumping it on everything. I finally found these colloidal band-aids to keep it covered up, and the swelling underneath gradually went away, after many days.

colloidal band-aid jenny skip covered with colloidal band-aid

Perhaps staying off social media sites for 10 days won’t break any long-held habits, but it did give me a long, slow breathing space to ponder the time I’ve actually spent, engrossed in some things I don’t really want to care about!

Craft Center Completed

Continuing from where we left off in the previous post, we did some more work on the Craft Room Re-do.

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We added a piece of plywood across the top of the two cabinets, which we planned for the TV and VCR/DVD player to sit on,  and nailed up some primed, sanded and painted molding to cover the raw edges. Skip put together a brace made of some strips of plywood, nailed it to the back of the plywood shelf, and fastened the structure to the wall stud.

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We’ll have to make sure the electronics line up with their remote controls, to be accessed from the sofa/bed directly across from it:

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And, from the point of view of folks whose eyesight can use a boost, Skip added not one, but two lights under the shelf for the workspace:

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It looks very utilitarian–and it is! The cabinets are roomy and can be closed and locked, making all those sharp blades, tiny objects, and fume-y chemicals out of the reach of curious grandkids! And everything on, under, and including the table can be moved somewhere else.

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Now… let’s get to crafting….

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Craft Room Makeover, and Discount Shopping in Our Own House

We’re re-doing a room in the house that wasn’t using its full potential. It was formerly known as the “Toy Room,” but truthfully, a lot of the “toys” in there were just broken bits of other things and stray parts that came with a game. Whenever the grandkids came over, it looked as if they just grabbed all the available bins full of toys, dumped them all out, scattered them hither and yon, and then their parents would cram everything willy-nilly into whatever bin was at hand when it was time to leave. Any attempt to organize the stuff was ….futile…

I threw out a lot of it, temporarily keeping a few categories of things: doll stuff, doll house stuff, toys with wheels, blocks, animals both current and extinct, potato-head stuff, mag-formers, art supplies, and books.

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my mom’s doll house

My poor mom would be scandalized at the condition of the doll house she worked countless hours fitting up. I actually have a big box  in the top shelf of the closet FULL of broken doll house furniture, which I replaced with cheap wooden and plastic items that I hoped would be more kid-friendly, but even those haven’t proven indestructible.

I didn’t take a “before” picture, but we moved a huge old Sauder entertainment center out of here piece by piece. It didn’t look too terrible, but it was big and overwhelming, and had digs in the fake-mahogany finish. We had a massive old TV set sitting on the big  center shelf, and a VHS/DVD player perched up on the top shelf.

To make the room more useful, I wanted to move some craft and art supplies in there. But I didn’t like the idea of just piling them on shelves, I wanted to lock them away. And I wanted to have a work space next to the storage space. We looked at building a storage and workspace from plywood. We may still do that, but for now, we settled on part-built and part-bought.  We ended up buying two relatively cheap stainless-steel lockable cabinets from Sam’s, which we had to assemble, but they came with free delivery, due to our having a Sam’s membership.  [I didn’t really say free, did I?]

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cabinets

The work desk in between the cabinets is a very old card table we had stashed away in the living room. It’s already the right height and size for a craft desk, plus it’s moveable. Score!

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cardboard box paper caddies

The cabinets came with 2 shelves, which can be installed any distances apart. The sides have pegboard holes in them, so you can hang things from them, with hooks. The above shelf holds card stock, scrapbook papers, and books arranged in cut-up cardboard boxes. The cut-up boxes are kind of artsy, and are just as functional as these magazine holder boxes shown below, that I actually paid money for, and had to assemble:

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cardboard magazine holders

The next step will be to install a long shelf above the cabinets, which will support the VHS/DVD player and a newer flat-screen TV that we got free 🙂 , from shopping in another room of the house. We’re going to install some lighting under the shelf and edge the shelf with some molding. Then, with lighting installed, let the crafting begin!

 

 

The Island of Misfit Card-making Equipment

As I’ve mentioned before, certain paper crafting supplies are not cheap!

The market for such items is huge, though.  A few companies that sell fancy papers, paints, inks, die-cutters and the like, are in extreme demand among the multitudes of folks who want to DIY their own greeting cards.

At our crafting class the other night, a few of us were talking about the monthly card kits we subscribe to, which run about $30 to $60 per month.

“I subscribed to [so-and-so’s] kit, but I refuse to subscribe to [such-and-such’s] because it’s way too expensive,” said one of our members.

I agreed. I also have a lot of stuff I’ve accumulated from the 3 months I’ve been a subscriber, that I haven’t used much of yet. However, I had been looking at that particular expensive kit, because its current offering has some equipment in it to make pretty gift card holders for Christmas. After a few days of mulling it over, I decided maybe I wanted to buy into just this one-off kit. But, in the few days it took me to get to that realization, the kit sold out! The only option was to buy a 3-month subscription, which was $97, not including shipping costs which would come to another $12 or so. Well, I darn sure wasn’t going to pay that…but then again, it was very unique, and it would only average out to $33 per month or so…I tentatively looked at the 3-month option again, and in just a day’s time, it was sold out too! Unreal!

Meanwhile, the company whose kit I do subscribe to, gives a mystery freebie item away with each order (separate from the kits). Which brings me to this item I received a few months back:

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mystery freebie item

Can you tell by looking at it, what it’s supposed to do/be?

The title of it is “Monstrocity.” And inside the envelope are some metal wafer dies in the shapes you see in the image above.

I threw it in a drawer and stopped thinking about it until recently, when I began to get interested in making cards and stuff for Halloween, reasoning that maybe it could fit into the Halloween festivities somehow. So I went to the company’s web site and tried to find a stamp set that coordinated with the dies. No luck. It was not even listed anywhere on the site. I tried Googling it, and I did find a few images someone made using the stamp set back in 2015. On eBay, I found one used stamp set that fits these dies, and it was for sale for about $35, not including shipping and handling. So the freebie is pretty much unusable–destined for the Island of Misfit Card-making Paraphernalia— unless I want to buy the stamp off someone who bought it from the company back in 2015.  Or, I could die-cut the little monsters out of paper, then draw and color them in while eye-balling a picture of the stamps so I’ll know what they’re supposed to look like? What would you do, dear reader?

In the interim, I did have some fun making Halloween cards.

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distress ink background, black ink through a stencil, hologram sticker
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Art Journal page: distress ink, big brush markers, gelée pumpkins, Ferro paste bats in “Bordeaux” color
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Distress ink background, Ferro paste bats in “Graphite” color through a stencil
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paper die cuts from Tricia, fog is Perfect Pearls powder dry-brushed on

The seasons are maybe changing a little…

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Lots of squirrel activity in the neighborhood….another harbinger of Fall?

Upcycling the Trash for Card Art

Welcome to that time of year when we live in suspended activity for just a few days/weeks before the academic year kicks into high gear.

We survived our 5th Annual Family Beach Weekend and the recuperation of it, but we’re technically still “on vacation.”

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Family reunion at Clearwater Beach

Still doing cards, and becoming more acquainted with the burgeoning world of card crafters on Youtube and the blogisphere. A few of us in the Wednesday Night Knitting Group are making cards and papercrafts. And even Skip is getting in on it, providing “sentiments” (as the text components of greeting cards are called) of a funny and sometimes better-left-unsaid nature; e.g. “Tanks for all you do” or “I’m flushed with happiness”–with a picture of a toilet, and others….

Here are some recent projects:

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backgrounds

This has been one of my favorite projects. I ripped up a few pieces of paper that were ready to go in the trash, and just “painted” them down on large index cards with gel medium, applied with a large paintbrush. First, I brushed on a thin layer to the card surface, and then just began layering strips, brushing more gel medium on top. Some of the paper is ratty, crumpled tissue paper that was balled up in the bottom of a gift bag. The crumpling just adds to the texture. These cards are the backgrounds for a few finished projects:

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art cards
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baby card
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the one on the right has the background

Then I made a few quick, easy beach cards using some Heidi Swapp laser-cut basswood lettering that was in little packages on the clearance rack at Joann’s, but we have already been experimenting with laser-cutting our own letters and motifs, too. It’s a whole new world of little bitty things to make! The pattern paper beach scenes are cut-outs from the Simon Says Stamp July kit.

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beach cards

For these next projects, I viewed a Bluprint (formerly known as Craftsy Unlimited) video of Shari Carroll (of Simon Says Stamp) teaching a card-making class, and tried my hand at some of her techniques. I seriously doubted I could pull off anything close to the beautiful projects she made out of–let’s face it–trash! But I’m somewhat happy with these…

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shabby-chic flower girl

The focus here is the corrugated cardboard background, which is derived from a box that was in the recycle bin, embellished with other 3D elements, which may or may not also be from the trash. This girl image and the ones below, were little cut-outs I found in a box of my mom’s stuff. I don’t know why she cut out these images and saved them, and I don’t know what she cut them out of in the first place.

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our laser-cut letters

Would you believe this bulky card, with its oversized bouquet, does fit into its envelope, although a tight squeeze. ANW/Crestwood made in the USA value pack blank cards and envelopes.

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this funky little owl cut-out has a 70’s look to it

Hope you’re having a great transition time before school, football, cooler weather, and the (yikes!) march toward the holidays.

A Card-carrying Crafter

As a crafter/maker, you know that you must keep on producing…something, whether on a lathe, with hardware, the written word, paint, a sewing machine…something! Right?

We’ve revived the Knitting group once a week, and expanded it to include other crafts as well.

One focus that has come forth in the group is the making of greeting cards, mostly by Tricia and me. She went to a Papercrafting Expo and came back with some great ideas and a resolve to make all her own greeting cards.

Papercrafting is BIG! The amount of tools and materials available for such pursuits is staggering. Several companies sell monthly kits with items that, they advertise, you can make at least 10 cards. With all the scraps and options you probably have around from previous projects, you can probably churn out way more than 10 from a kit (which costs about $40). But when you go to the store to buy cards for an occasion, you’re going to probably spend $5 a piece, or more, if you can’t resist the really ornate ones. And several super You-tube makers vlog about the cards they made from the monthly kit, which can give you so much inspiration and ideas.

Here are a few that I have made in the past couple of months:

Cards made from Simon Says Stamp June 2018 kit, based on Vicky Papaionnou’s designs
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This one incorporates balsa wood letters Skip cut out with the Laser, and some Tim Holtz gears and tape
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This one features a raised pattern by an embossing sleeve that was included in the June SSS kit, dusted over with a gold powder
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These cards used leftover strips cut from 6×6 card stock from the June SSS kit

I learned how to use the leftover strips of card stock (hating to throw anything cute away) courtesy of Shari Carroll’s “Lovely Layered Cards from Top to Bottom” class on the Craftsy platform.

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Card papers from the kit, with floral butterflies

These were made from 1) plain cards (the pink and blue “borders” in the photo above are the actual pink and blue cards that the decorative papers were glued onto)  and envelopes that came in a big package of 80 sets from Michael’s on sale for $5, 2) two 6×6 pieces of card stock that came with the SSS kit,  cut down to size so the background paper looks like a border, 3) the sentiments came from a couple of clear stamps and Archival jet black ink, 4) some large sequins I had leftover from my grandmother’s sewing stash, 5) floral butterflies from Hobby Lobby that came in a pkg of 4.

The package of four floral butterflies and the package of 80 sets of cards and envelopes were each the same price; go figure!

Anyway, loads of fun!

 

May flowers and Mermaids

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Early May flowers

We’ve been taking a break from blogging and vlogging, and it sure gives me a different perspective on life!

Changes in lifestyle–such as living through the aftermath of a hurricane, losing your vision, retiring from a high-paced career, or getting sick–can take a toll on the ol’ creative process.

Documenting our every creation adds a level of stress to each project. I like blogging; it’s Show and Tell for the Digital Age. But not having to immortalize an item via posting it, can sure be freeing. If the project does not live on in my [limiting] descriptive words, it still lives on as what it is: a creative accomplishment, a spark of ideas, a sense of wonderment, a nod for practical uses, shared audacity that might elicit a smile.

Here’s the latest, a quilt that finally assembled itself once I got on board with it…

I don’t think it would have come about if I hadn’t weeded out the fabric stash. I had a lot of fabric in there that was given to me, or that I had scooped up because it was cheap or free, and I didn’t really like it, I just kept it around “in case.” Well, that stuff was weighing down on me like a ton of bricks, creating obligations that I didn’t want to have. I had been thinking in terms of clothes I wanted to make, and it suddenly occurred to me, I hate most of the clothes I’ve made. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them. All the time and effort and angst I put into apparel sewing, and with lousy results! I’m over it! Stage One was a giveaway, now I’m waiting for Stage Two, the Yard Sale, and then Stage Three will be jettisoning the remaining cargo to the local Thrift Shop or Goodwill. And I’ll be free!  [wait, not stone-free, I’m keeping all the quilting cottons, of course.}

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Focal point of the quilt: the appliqué panel in the center
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With the patchwork border
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Quilting with the Q’nique
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finished quilt

It is lying on top of a king-size bed, so it is pretty massive, the biggest quilt I’ve made from scratch, so far. The backing is 108″ wide cotton fabric from JoAnn’s, one large sheet of fabric with  no seams down the center. The binding is a discontinued color of Wright’s Quilt Binding: I bought three 3-yard packages of it on clearance and I used all of it but maybe 6 inches. Whew! It looks gray in the picture but it’s actually a grayish light blue-green color.

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End-of-May flowers

Remind Me Again Why We Mix Media?

I was coming home from the gym yesterday morning, and the outdoor speakers in the shopping center were playing the old Bertie Higgins hit, “Key Largo.”

Don’t get me wrong, I adore that song, even if it is a little on the schmaltzy side. It clogged my mind with vague recollections of the feast that was the original movie with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The song, although cute and memorable, is not in the same league as the epic movie.

Which brings me to my latest craft project, art journaling.

I was introduced to art journaling when I took an online class offered by University of Florida, called Healing With the ArtsIt was fun, but I didn’t really accept it as a serious art form. Later I was surprised, astonished even, to discover that loads of people are out there art journaling, and there’s a giant craft market catering to those journalers!

I would have never found this out if I hadn’t signed up for a free 2-week Craftsy subscription.

The old Craftsy had individual classes for sale, in many different categories, such as photography, sewing, woodworking, cooking, knitting, and various modes of visual art. They also offer kits and supplies to make some projects, and space to showcase your projects and interact with the community. The recently updated Craftsy Unlimited has a monthly or yearly subscription fee, for which you can access ALL the content (with a few exceptions.) And from time to time, they add in a few perqs as incentives to subscribe, such as coupons to buy some of their merchandise. I did subscribe in between two awesome perq campaigns, and got none (so much for my loyalty as a paying customer!) But I have been combing through the class offerings, which are treasure troves of techniques!

That’s where I learned that Mixed Media (including art journaling, paper crafts, card making, and scrapbooking) is such a big thing. I can see card making: you pay about $5 per greeting card at the store, so you might be able to save money making your own cards. And scrapbooking: you can make some really cute memory books for the family to delight in. But art journaling? It seemed to me to be a vast, deep rat-hole to throw your money down, a waste of time and resources that would only ever benefit your own selfish self.  But crafters are jumping on the mixed media arts band wagon.

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Stamps and such

And mixed media art supplies aren’t cheap! Craft stores sell special designer paints and inks, pricey pens and markers, row after row of stick-on and stamp-on words and motifs in cellophane envelopes. One artist called them “sentiments.” Also essential to the craft is paper: you can buy pricey blank books, but some of the class instructors advocate using an old book as a (non-) blank canvas for your work, and even junk mail and newspaper advertisement pages can be covered in gesso and used as the basis for mixed-media works of art.

Each little project has a background, focal point, possibly other embellishments, and “sentiments.” I have to compare our generation with the Edwardian and Victorian English girls who busied themselves doing needlework, playing the pianoforte in the parlor, and painting with watercolors. We will possibly be remembered by our posterity for our inked-up oversize manila luggage tags bearing stamped-on messages such as “Life is better at the beach” and “Bloom Where You Are Planted!”

Bloom…

 

 

Wow, Spring!

After being under the weather for about seven weeks, I finally felt okay enough to resume walking in the mornings before going to the gym. I was surprised that suddenly trees are blooming in the neighborhood! It’s Spring already!

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rain runoff
street
street
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fountain
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azaleas
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Liveoak leaves falling
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azaleas
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tulip tree
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jungle palms
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budding trees
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It was Abe Lincoln’s birthday
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the end of the line

 

 

 

The Steve McQueen Connection

Maybe you’re one of those hard-to-shop-for people who already has  everything.  So, for a holiday gift this year, maybe you got a DNA test kit from Ancestry.com or another company that was advertising them at a cut rate.  You spit in the tube, send it off, find out what the pie chart of your ethnicity shows by way of percentages European, Asian, African, etc., then what?

We did the test a few years ago, after I was charmed by an Ancestry.com vendor at Rootstech.

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test kit

Oddly (to me), most of the DNA connections I’ve found through ancestry.com  have no pedigree listed on the site at all, so I have no earthly idea how I’m related to them. You can go and see what matches you have in common with them, and then presume that you’re related to them through a common ancestor from the match in common. But when you have some Smiths, Williams’s, and other such very common names in the various ancestral lines, it could be any one of them.

For one thing, my parents’ few siblings had no children, so I have no first cousins. The second cousins should be the descendants of my grandparents’ siblings.  So I would have at least 4 common ancestors with a DNA match who is a second cousin. Third cousins: we would have 8 common ancestors to be descended from.  Fourth cousin: 16 common ancestors.  Unfortunately, in the majority of my matches, I have to guess which one of the 32 common ancestors the match is descended from. That generation (5th cousin) is my great-great-great grandparents, and most people haven’t gotten that far in their research. But, some people have gotten far. And maybe they can help me, because when you go back many generations, there weren’t  as many people in the world.

Another quirky thing about the DNA test, is that a person inherits 50% of his or her DNA from their mother and 50% from their father. So it is actually possible for a brother to have a DNA match and his sister to not have that match. I have seen that first hand, since my son and daughter both had their test results registered on the site. The DNA match I’m referring to would be at the level of distant cousin.

Ancestry also has an affiliated phone app called “We’re Related.” You also have to link up with Facebook somehow, to get matches. And DNA has nothing to do with these matches, they’re all based on the pedigree you’ve entered on the site, and enhanced by information from other people’s pedigrees, I guess.  So every now and then, we get a notice from “We’re Related” telling us who may be a cousin, and exactly how we are possibly related. This week, for me, it was Steve McQueen.

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Me & Cousin Steve

When we first get the notice of a match, it’s fun and interesting to see who is our distant cousin, but I never took it very seriously, since practically everyone in the US who has colonial ancestors, is related at the level of tenth cousin or so, right?  [Or, as one friend put it, “we’re all brothers and sisters when you go back to the beginning!”]

But it wasn’t until I was reading a blog called A Tree Grew in Oakland that I realized I should be checking the connections given in these notifications, to see if they are feasible. I knew by clicking on the 10 in the notice above, and seeing the ten generations the site came up with for my lineage, that I only had an ancestor for the prior 5 generations. It ended with my furtherest-back ancestor, a great-great grandmother, but they listed 5 more generations previous to hers. You could say that I had a brick wall. I didn’t know where she came from. I still don’t know for sure, but these new connections are feasible, and when I entered some of the information, hints popped up to show that there are historical records that confirm the data.

Another coincidence is that a few days before, I’d gotten a notice that Derek Jeter is possibly my 8th cousin. When I clicked on the 8 to see what they came up for our common ancestor, the lineage included that same great-great grandmother, but this time it showed  three previous generations in her maternal line, rather than paternal like the Steve McQueen connection.

Amazing, do you think that great-great grandmother wanted her lineage to be found? Time to stop all the fun speculation and actually follow up on some of these leads.

As Pat Shaul, the author of A Tree Grew in Oakland, says, not all of the connections on “We’re Related” are correct. But when he wrote that he had some checking to do, it hit me that those speculative relationships from Ancestry.com can be a gold mine of a starting point for research!

Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts