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Filtering by Category: Personal

How To :: Coloring Easter Eggs with Grandma

elena wilken

Several years ago I posted about how we've been dyeing and decorating Easter eggs in my family, ever since I remember. It is a natural, pretty simple process, and a lot of fun. Just ask my kids :)

I will re-post the steps here, along with pictures I took of my mom and the kids last year while coloring our Easter eggs. For this year's Easter eggs we're getting together on Saturday and will try to dye blue ones too, using red cabbage. Last year's 'blue eggs' experiment wasn't too successful so we'll change a few things and hope for much more intense colors - more vinegar, salt and longer simmer time, and white eggshells this year. Will keep you posted ;)

Enjoy the process, if you decide to try the method this year!

It might be worth checking out the original post as those pictures are a little more focused on the process than these.   

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I grew up in Romania, in Eastern Europe - somewhere in Transylvania.
Coloring eggs with dry red and yellow onion peels is one of the things I remember vividly about our every Easter preparation. The fun part for us kids was always the hunt for herbs and leaves. Mom did most of the work through the process, until my 2 younger brothers and myself grew older and could help more.
A symbol of new life, and always a part of our Easter celebrations, dyeing Easter eggs using this onion peels technique brings back such fond memories of growing up. It's something that I want to pass on to my children, and it makes me really happy that mom is excited to share and teach this tradition to them :)

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WHAT YOU NEED:

  • eggs (brown and/or white)
  • a small grocery bag of dry onion skins from yellow and red onions - the darker the better! (I definitely prefer the red) - about 6 packed cups
  • freshly picked herbs and leaves or flowers for decoration
  • nylon stockings (to wrap the eggs in - individually)
  • string
  • scissors
  • a few tablespoons of white vinegar (and/or salt)
  • stainless soup pot or sauce pan
  • slotted spoon
  • strainer
  • olive oil (or other edible oil; or unsalted butter) - to polish the eggs at the end


BEFORE YOU GET STARTED:

• Carefully wash the eggs with lukewarm water and remove anything that might be clinging to the surface of the eggs.
• These instructions assume you start with raw eggs. The eggs are boiled after you decorate them, along with the onion skins.
• Each egg needs to be wrapped individually, so the leaf/grass blades/herbs/flower petals stay tight to the egg shell. That way the plants will be able to keep the dye color from penetrating the eggshell in the covered area, and you will have the pretty shape, at the end.
• The eggs taste normal, no onion flavor!
• You can use any kind of leaves - the kids went outside and picked some from the lawn. ...Clover leaves, small dandelion leaves, parsley, dandelion blooms - they'll work perfect!

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RED ONION DRY SKIN DYED EASTER EGGS

1. Collect a small bag of red (and yellow) dry onion skins. Most often the local small grocery store will save the skins if you ask.

2. In a stainless pan or pot, place the onion skins and the white vinegar in 4-6 cups of water - depending on how many eggs you will be dyeing - and bring to a boil. You need enough water so all the eggs will be covered while boiling.
Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20-30 minutes. If decorating and wrapping the eggs is taking longer, you can always turn off the heat and let it sit on the side, until you are ready to place the eggs in.

3. Meantime decorate and wrap the eggs. When applying the leaves, apply them wet - it makes it easier to get them to stick to the egg and they stay in place when wrapping them in the thin nylon stocking. Wrap each egg gently and tightly in the stocking, and tie the stocking around it. Cut the excess stocking and gently place the wrapped egg on a plate

4. Gently place the eggs in the pot with the onion skins, with the slotted spoon. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

5. When boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about another 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

6. The longer the eggs sit in the dyeing liquid, the deeper the color.
If they are not red enough, allow them to sit in the warm liquid for at least 10 more minutes or until the desired color is achieved. You may even refrigerate them in the liquid overnight for a nice deep color.
(I don't remember mom ever keeping them overnight. She always seems to get the color just right. The few tablespoons of vinegar and/or the salt in the boiling water, will always help darken the color of the egg shells.)

7. Transfer each egg to a plate and cut the stocking with a pair of scissors.
Peel back and discard the herbs. Pat the eggs dry with a paper towel, or let them air dry on the plate or in a strainer.
Mom never seems to wait long for the eggs to cool off, as the plants tend to dry quick. It makes it hard to peel them off. However, if that happens, you can place the eggs in water again, so the plants get moist and easy to handle.

8. To add luster and close the pores of the eggshells, the eggs need to be smeared with a little olive oil, wax, bacon or unsalted butter.

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And here is mom, wrapping one egg, with a step-by-step take. :)

I didn't take any pictures of the eggs being placed in the pot with the onion skins (or being taken out and unwrapped) but if you'd like to take a peek at that part of the process hop over to this past blog post.

...Aren't they pretty? :)

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Along with our Easter Eggs, we also created a little Resurrection garden that we now keep on our little patio. I love looking at it all year long - and the reminder and meaning of it. My most favorite little memento :)
There are a number of posts floating around pintrest about how to make one, if you'd like a how-to.

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Thank you for stopping by! Happy Easter!

How to Install your Own Cork Board Wall Area

elena wilken

Whether you want to add a giant cork board wall in the play room to display the kids' art, or you want a giant pin board for your office, this method will work for either.

I think cork boards are awesome! We installed one in my home office, and it was the one thing I knew I wanted before anything else, in the new office space!

Let me introduce you to my husband Paul, who wrote the post and the instructions. I helped with the installation but he's the driving force behind this.

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How to add a little class and utility to any given space…
~ a step-by-step guide to how we installed a cork board wall, and you could too
 

Inspiration needs a home! What better way to fuel the fires of creativity than displaying found gems/nuggets - and self created notes/pics?

Over the last couple of years we have installed two cork walls to do just that! Not to say that we are professional cork wall installers. Simply, after two installations we have some experience (and know what worked for us) so we thought we'd share that.

We looked up all kinds of tutorials on the best way to do this and decided to screw a plywood sheet to the wall first, then glue the cork sheet to it. The advantage was that there would only be a few screw holes to fill and paint over in the event of a move or change of decor.

Steps:

1. Decide on the size of your cork wall area.
2. Order the Cork sheet.
3. Get and mount the plywood board to the wall.
4. Apply the adhesive.
5. Roll cork onto board.
6. Trim if necessary.
7. Load it up with Inspiration!

MATERIALS/Tools needed:

• Plywood Sheet
• Screws (roughly 10) & a power drill
• Furring Strips - optional
• Cork roll or cork sheet - Manton cork
• Adhesive - Henry’s 356 Adhesive
• Paper towels (damp - to clean up any adhesive drips or spills)
• A cheap plastic kitchen spatula (to spread the adhesive), and a small plastic trowel for texturizing
• Hook blade/Utility knife
• Rolling pin

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The nitty gritty and step-by-step details:

1. Measure and decide on the size needed - both for the plywood board and the cork to mount to it.

2. Order the cork. The cork we used was a pre cut 4x8 1/4” sheet of Manton cork
You could buy it directly through the company (note that the shipping fee is on the high side), or you could look it up and find the product on Amazon (which we did). Even with a 2 day shipping fee, the total came in a little lower. The shipping through Amazon might be free, with Prime (if you have the service). Worth checking it out.

Tip: Don’t order the cork unless you are planning to install within a few days of delivery. The manufacturer states that shrinkage could occur if it dries out too long.
Tip : The day before installation, unroll the cork on the floor curled/convex side up and put books on all the edges to allow the cork to completely flatten before install.
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3. Based on our wall area you want covered,  once you pick the size of your cork sheet, pick up a sheet of plywood as well. We picked up a 1/4,” 4x8 sheet of smooth surfaced plywood from Home Depot.
For the first cork board we mounted the plywood directly to the wall, with roughly 10 screws (we hit the studs where we were able).

As an alternative method, mount furring strips to the wall first and then mount the board to them. Both methods work. However, we preferred the more finished look of the furring strip method when mounting on a big open wall.

Tip: Make sure the plywood is stiff enough to not warp.
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After the board is mounted securely in place, proceed to place your cork. We did it several days later actually, while the kids enjoyed a movie with the grandparents. So if you need to, you can split the process in these 2 steps: installing the plywood first,  and then at a later time, installing the actual cork board.

4. We used one -1 quart- container of Henry’s 356 Adhesive for the entire surface.
To spread the adhesive we used a 16” trowel, but it proved to go much faster spreading the glue with a cheap plastic kitchen spatula, and then used a small (plastic, not metal) trowel to texturize the layer of adhesive.

Tip: It dries dark, so if you get any on the wall, where you might not want it, you could either wash it while still fresh - with damp paper towels, or paint over it later.
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5. After the adhesive has been troweled onto the board we immediately started to apply the cork starting at the top. Getting the sheet up is pretty easy, as long as you have two people doing it... no special tool used to roll it, either. We just used a rolling pin from the kitchen.

Tip: Initially, the cork seemed to not want to stay down on the board. However, simply keep rolling over and over even after it appears to be completely affixed.
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6. If the cork was cut to the same size as the board, there should be no need to trim. However, if there is need for trimming, make sure you have a new, sharp blade!

Tip: Wait 24 hours before trimming to make sure no shifting occurs.
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7. Finally, fill up that board with your inspirations and aspirations!

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Thankful to Paul for getting the info together and writing out the steps. And even more so, for getting the boards installed ;)
If you guys have any further questions on the process, feel free to leave a comment or email, and between Paul and myself we'll give you our best answer, based on our experience with this process.

A few parting thoughts...

As long as you think through and plan your steps ahead of time the process is very simple, and a piece of cake. The satisfaction and benefits of having the board up, waaaay out weigh the time and work it takes to install the board.

Measure - and double check the measurements of the wall area - and get your plywood and cork sheet cut at the proper size. Have all your tools ready - and most importantly have someone ready to lend you a helping hand throughout the process, when necessary! Have fun, and let us know how it went, if you do it! :)

Thank you for stopping by!

 For this first cork board we installed the plywood board directly to the wall, before mounting the cork board to it. It still works great. Because the plywood wasn't of  the highest quality, you can notice some warping in the board though. In the long run, it is absolutely worth it getting a good piece of plywood.

For this first cork board we installed the plywood board directly to the wall, before mounting the cork board to it. It still works great. Because the plywood wasn't of  the highest quality, you can notice some warping in the board though. In the long run, it is absolutely worth it getting a good piece of plywood.

 Over the last month or so, we also hung my picture wall. That was a fun experience that might be worth sharing sometime as well :)

Over the last month or so, we also hung my picture wall. That was a fun experience that might be worth sharing sometime as well :)

Favorite work tool as of late

elena wilken

Not once I opened the web browser for some rather important and legitimate reason, only to find myself 10-15 minutes later on Instagram or some other web land of mindless scrolling. And on top of the time wasted, I completely forget the reason I opened the browser in the first place.
...Do not tell me I am the only one! :)

A couple of weeks ago I discovered (through another artist) an add-on/extension for Chrome/Firefox called Momentum! You can find a number of reviews and tutorials for it on You-tube, and I will link to just one of them here.
It basically replaces your new tab page with a personal dashboard featuring a to-do list, a preset list of links, a count down of the number of days remaining until an important date, weather, daily inspiration and more.
The breathtaking images made me gasp a couple of mornings when opening the browser, and  definitely give me a moment of calm and inspire me to stay on track. I have been more productive with my time, since I started using it. A small, but steady increase. ...I find myself doing less mindless scrolling and being more purposeful with how I use my time.
The images, the Focus, the To Do list and the Countdown are some of my favorite features.

...Personally, it's been a fabulous tool to eliminate distraction! Hope you like it too and find it useful too.
p.s. This is not an ad. I just love it enough and thought I should share it. :)

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The simple things and simple treasures...

elena wilken

Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard.
— Psyche Roxas-Mendoza

Moments of summers past, from the place my heart loves most.

I/we never get tired of the ocean. It's half way into March and we've already made a handful of afternoon trips. Summer can't get here soon enough! Spur of the moment evening beach picnics are high on our summer activities list.

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My Favorite online Watercolor, Modern Calligraphy and Lettering classes

elena wilken

Here is a handful of my most favorite online classes. I promised I'd share them with you in one of my last posts, where I shared a bit about my story.

I am a huge fan of online classes and workshops because they can fit so easily to anyone's lifestyle and schedule needs. Plus it's hard to beat the value! You can not sign up for a 1 term 3 credit college class, for the price of all these  resources added together.

There are many great platforms out there, but Skillshare, is one of my favorites. I've been introduced to both surface pattern design and modern calligraphy through teachers on this platform, so that might be why I have a soft spot for it. That, and the fact that the quality of the classes I've been still taking since then, makes it worth spending the time watching.

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Modern Calligraphy and Lettering favorite classes

  • Melissa Esplin's Modern Calligraphy online workshop - is a self paced, one month membership to the online class, well structured and organized, with homework and assignments, that you get personal feedback on. I will be going back and taking this probably every couple of years - it's that great and it was that eye opening for me!
    It starts with a more traditional alphabet based on Copperplate calligraphy (which to be honest I wasn't excited about in the beginning), and it works through the assignments to get the students exploring their own personal style by the end of the class.
    After going through this class and others as well, I think this (or another great traditional calligraphy class) should be the first one any student takes. There is something to be said about learning the rules first, so you can beautifully break them later, in the pursue of modern calligraphy.
     
  • Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls' Beginning Calligraphy class on CreativeBug.com is another one of my favorite beginner calligraphy classes. The shape of her letters is slender, delicate, emanates strength, and they are just all-around beautiful.
    If you love her style and enjoy the class, I am sure you'll lover her calligraphy kit Belle Calligraphy Kit: Materials and Instruction for Modern Script, published by Chronicle Books.
     
  • Molly Jacques is the independent lettering artist that opened my eyes for the very first time to modern calligraphy and lettering!
    She used to have a class available through Skillshare - that's how I was first introduced to her.
    While she doesn't teach on the Skillshare platform anymore, she does have calligraphy, lettering and business classes available on her website.
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Watercolor & Gouache favorite classes

Skillshare has tons of watercolor classes available, and I watched a number of them. However my most favorite teachers are over on CreativeBug.com. The monthly membership allows you to watch any of the available classes, and is super affordable at $4.99 /a month. You might even be able to find a free 2-weeks trial by searching Google first.

  • Yao Cheng is a wonderful watercolorist and artist, but also an amazing teacher. You can't go wrong by watching any and all of her Creativebug classes!
     
  • I loved Jennifer Orkin Lewis (also known as August Wren) class Illustrative Painting with Guache.
    In many aspects, a completely different style from Yao Cheng, but she is a great teacher also. Best color mixing demonstration ever!
     
  • Not a watercolor/gouache, but a favorite drawing and illustration basics class is also taught on this platform by Heather Ross, a surface patterns and fabric designer that I have a lot of admiration for.

    Have fun exploring, and please do come back and share your favorite classes and resources in the comments, if you fall in love with any! :)
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My Little Home Office ...and How it All Started

elena wilken

A few months ago I moved into a work space outside our home.
The new office is beautifully lit on sunny days, and the streets outside the window delightfully buzz with life. Aside from the background noise it is very quiet. ...There are no children running around or hopping in as they pass by the door. I dearly miss the thought of those moments some days, but just as dearly, I appreciate and welcome the quietness :)
This new space feels like home and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be there. 

 Here is a little sneak peak at this new spot I am spending my working hours in these days, with a little Meyer Lemon tree by the window.

Here is a little sneak peak at this new spot I am spending my working hours in these days, with a little Meyer Lemon tree by the window.

...But it’s not this space I want to show you. Not today.

...Let me first introduce myself.
I am Elena, an illustrator, letterer, graphic designer, and a self-declared photographer at heart. And before that, a wife, a mom to our 3 loves, and one part of a less traditional family with a working mom and a "domestic engineer" dad (aka our most awesome stay-at-home dad).

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

Almost 9 years ago to the day, out of my love and passion for photography, intertwined with my graphic design knowledge, I started EW Couture Collection. It was about one year after our first baby was born.
EW Couture Collection is a line of designer Photoshop templates and marketing materials for the professional photographer - Christmas cards, business cards, albums and mini accordion albums, CD, DVD and USB templates, presentation boxes, baby announcements, graduation invitations... you name it. All photographer marketing materials you could think of. 

7 years ago, before our second baby was born, I left my associate graphic designer position, and the part time gig became a full time contracting job.

Fast forward to almost 4 years ago after our third boy was born - my husband took on the role of a stay at home dad, and I took my work more seriously than ever. We strongly felt that it was the right direction and fit for our family and it made the most sense for us and our kids. So we stepped out into this adventure, and never really looked back. Only forward.
Along the way, I also started a collaboration with Mpix, creating for their beautiful collection of handmade photo goodies and keepsakes, and stationary.

It’s been a whirlwind ride that's been leaving me speechless and still fills me with thankfulness again and again. It allows me to make a living doing something that I enjoy, while leaving a mark on other peoples’ lives.
The people I've met, the friendships I’ve made, the things I am learning about myself and the way this journey is shaping our family, will forever stay with me.
That's not to say that there are no sacrifices we've chose or had to make along the way, or that life is in bright shades of pink everyday. But we both know we are in the right place, and wouldn't do it differently, given the choice. The kids are thriving, and they love having Paul around so much! ... I am sure I will be sharing more about our experience, as I become more friendly with my blog again, so stick around ;)

But for today, I wanted to take a moment to be thankful for - and honor - the little  place where I started my journey.
If you'd know me, you'd learn that I get attached to places, and they become very meaningful to me. That was the case with my little home office, too.
This place saw me at my highest and at my lowest, and it's here that I've learned to navigate the complex world of owning a small business. ...The place where so many projects were birthed, where I first tried modern calligraphy and lettering, where I first ventured into watercolors and illustration, and where I first started thinking of myself as a professional artist and small business owner. I love this little room and what it meant for me and implicitly, for our little family!

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

The cork board wall was one of my favorite features, and something that I recreated in my current space, as well. I love being able to pin on it inspirational pieces, torn magazine pages, things I might be working on at the moment, or little notes from the kids.
I happened to photograph how my husband and I installed it, so if you are interested in the process and how we went about getting it done, check out the blog next week for a feature.

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

In an effort to stay relevant in the industry, and out of curiosity and delight too (once I got the taste of it), I learned and taught myself new skills. It would be dishonest of me not to admit that a good part of the drive to learn new things was linked to getting a paycheck and making a living for our family.
I am an introvert, I am not a thrill seeker, and I am very happy in my comfort zone ...I have yet to take on something new without any fears, and fully believing it will turn into a smashing success :) So, anything that gets me motivated and pushes me forward, out of my comfort zone - I'll take it!

I am sure many are plagued with the fear of getting started, but what I learned is that most times that's all it takes. Getting started is half or more of the journey.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite classes that I took, while learning lettering, calligraphy, and watercolors. I'll update with a link to the feature, this coming week. I started adding them here, but this post is getting lengthier than I intended it, as it is :) 

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

Watercolors and gauche are two other mediums that I've fallen in love with, in my creative explorations. And sure enough, I have a few awesome and very affordable online classes to recommend for these, too ;)

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

...And then, there is digital illustration. Oh, the possibilities!
I can completely blame my stumbling into that, on Paul :)
A couple of years ago, we went in to pick up a new desktop machine, and I walked out with the iMac - and an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. Because "This is going to open up so many possibilities for you!" And indeed, the iPad Pro has been one of the best and most lucrative investments I made for the business, aside from education! I am thrilled he insisted I'd get it.
It's been part of my workflow on about every other project I've worked on since I got, and it will be part of every single one, as I wade into surface pattern design this year.

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

...About a year ago when I contacted Heidi of Velvet Owl Photography for updated head shots for the website, I didn't know I was going to move out soon. I am so glad that I decided to have the session in this little office.
With the move, this room is now a bedroom, with no sign of what is has been. I will forever treasure the memory of this little space as my little creative heaven.

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

...This is our gift baby, the one that has my heart wrapped around his little finger. And also, one of the reasons I started to seriously consider a work space outside the house :)

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

 image by Velvet Owl Photography

image by Velvet Owl Photography

I've been fascinated with the world of surface pattern design ever since I've became aware of it (thank you Sillshare!) I am so excited to take this world by storm this year, and completely immerse myself in learning all I can about it, in a comprehensive Surface Pattern Design Immersion Program, taught by Bonnie Christine. I am not taking this on without feeling anxious, but I fully trust it will be a smashing success! ;)

Better today.

elena wilken

If you are an Instagram user, a great account to add to your follow list is Simon Sinek Inspires. He looks at every day as an opportunity to inspire, and does it by sharing little pearls of wisdom that will most likely cause you 'aha moments'. And will inspire you to take action.

... Little pearls like this this one, which determined me to start blogging again.
Isn't it so very true? "The goal is not to be perfect by the end. The goal is to be better today."
...What do you wish to perfect in your life, that you could get better at today?

For me, this also goes hand in hand with "Done is better than perfect."

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Beginnings in surface pattern design

elena wilken

Because it's the first collection of surface patterns I've created, I thought it would be fun to document this, as well asthe process. It is exciting (and sometimes sobering) to be able to look back at some point, and see where you've started and how much you've grown. This marks the beginnings of my babyhood in surface pattern design.

...Walking through sun flower fields; riding your bike down the village's main street; stopping to pick wildflowers and berries, while hot air balloons fly above in the sky and birds welcome the new day with their chirping. - That's what the story is about :)
The first color way is reminiscent of bright, fresh colors in the cool, crisp air of the morning, a little soft and misty. The second is reminiscent of the sunset hours.

So here is my first collection. ...Celebrating beginnings doesn't matter how small or imperfect. They are always a step forward in the journey.