May 30, 2007

Baseball Birthday

Birthday4

Thank you for all your sweet birthday wishes for Andy yesterday. I know he really appreciated all of those kind words — thank you. It was such a nice day. We worked in the yard a bit, cutting back this rose (the Climbing Eden I mentioned last week), putting in the herbs, grilling brats, baking a cake, enjoying the perfect weather.

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This cake was very similar to the little stacks of hearts and clouds I made for Valentine's Day. I used this recipe for Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake, spread the bottom layer with raspberry jam, topped it with Cloudburst Frosting instead of pastry cream, then added the top and another layer of frosting. This chocolate cake is better than the Dutch chocolate cake I used last time; I'd kinda thought the Dutch chocolate recipe was this one, but it wasn't. I was remembering this cake from years ago as the one my roommate used to make for her boyfriend — I called it the "boiling water" cake, and indeed it does have boiling water in it. It is incredibly moist and a little difficult to get out of its pans, but if you can manage it, it's the best.

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Our dishwasher finally bit the dust over the weekend and the new one's on order, so it was hand-washing for everything. I can honestly say I don't think I was appreciating my dishwasher enough. I should've been sending her thank-you notes every day, really.

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In the evening, baseball, our loyalties sorely tested. I couldn't help rooting for the Cubs (the farm team for the Chicago Cubs). Andy, the only one of our party who'd actually lived in Iowa (as he kept reminding us) was staunchly in support of the Beavs.

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It was his birthday so we let it go. . . .

Great weekend. Super good.

May 25, 2007

Pillow Talk

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Getting ready for summer houseguests, big projects, new paint, someone's birthday, a linen-cabinet cleanout. Unearthed a pile of pillowcases I'd embroidered. Will tell you about those next week. Wait for it — [thrillsville]. [If you're into that sort of thing.]

[Of course you are.]

Ooops — forgot to say — all orders for bookbags and scrapbags left the studio yesterday (unless you sent an eCheck via Paypal which has yet to clear), and any orders I received after the 17th that weren't bookbags or scrapbags will most likely be going out on Tuesday (if I can't get it all done today). Thank you again! I've been really overwhelmed this time, but I'm getting there, I promise.

May 24, 2007

Tikka-Masala Makin'

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My niece came over yesterday afternoon and I had her help me make the Chicken Tikka Masala I mentioned the other day. I wanted to test it out before my shirt arrives so that when it gets here and I invite my friends to my Indian dinner, I won't have to worry that the recipe won't work. As Ina counsels, I don't make things I've never made before when peeps are coming for dinner.

I read some of the reader comments on that recipe (which was just the first one that looked good when I Googled it) so I knew that 1) it was spicy and 2) it was way too salty as written. I had Arden make the marinade — basically yogurt with lemon juice and ginger and lots and lots of different spices — but we only used 1 t. salt, instead of the recommended FOUR.

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The marinade is perfect for a kid to do. I love discovering what she doesn't know. For instance, it was slightly challenging to grasp both the relationship and the difference between the 1/4 teaspoon and the teaspoon, not to mention a spoon (often called a teaspoon), but so much fun to investigate it. When you use a butter knife to smooth the top of your measuring unit, you should use the top of the knife, not the curved edge. Stuff like this. Beautiful. There was a collective sneezing incident when 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper got measured, and a potential "I got pepper in my eye!" scare, but it passed (and hands were washed again all around).

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You make the marinade then leave the chicken to soak it up for an hour in the fridge. We went out to the yard, wrote two poems, drew a cat, watered the plants, and watched Uncle Andy mow the lawn. Then it was time for my charge to go home. She assured me she would not have been interested in eating this for dinner. . . .

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When the chicken is fully saturated with its spicy elixir, you grill it up, then add it to the creamy, jalapeno-y, tomato-y sauce (to which, again, I only added 1 teaspoon of salt, not THREE), and plop it all on some basmati rice. I could tell just by looking and smelling that it was going to be good. One bite and I couldn't stop talking: "Ohmygosh. Ohmygosh! Wow. This tastes just like the restaurant! I can't believe it. I've never, ever made anything that tasted like the thing from the restaurant! Ever. Ever! But this does. Doesn't it? Wow! I'm so excited? Are you psyched honey? Are you as psyched as I am???" All said with my mouth full.

People, it was just like it is at the restaurant.

Hurry, daisy blouse! Hurry!

May 21, 2007

Raspberry-Muffin Morning

Muffins2

I had two little containers of gorgeous raspberries, so I thought I'd make some muffins. I love a good muffin. I think most coffee shops really need to work on their muffins. Or maybe it's just that muffins are best right out of the oven, not shrouded in cling-wrap and three days on.

Anyway, I should know better than to open a Barefoot Contessa cookbook with no butter in the fridge, so off to the store (in my apron and pajama culottes [people at my Safeway wear a lot weirder outfits than that, I assure you] ) I went.

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For all muffins lately I've used the recipe for Ina's Blueberry Coffee-Cake Muffins from Barefoot Contessa Family Style. It makes heavy, beautifully yellow muffins. I don't like a muffin that shreds into upholstery stuffing when I open it; I want my muffins loamy and moist. Just substitute anything you want for the blueberries. Never was there a better excuse for some fancy Demerara sugar than the tops of these.

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Of course, I could not find the Demerara sugar I was sure I'd just bought, so I used a bit of cinnamon-sugar. Not much can't be made better with a fine layer of cinnamon-sugar. I used the jumbo muffin tin (to find one, just Google it), too, so I stuffed the all the batter into these six craters (and it was still a little too much batter). Bake an extra 8-10 minutes.

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Good muffins. The tart berries add just the right amount of sourness to that dense, vanilla-y handful. Yummy hot, and even, weirdly, better the next day.

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May 17, 2007

Last Bookbag Sale, Today, Noon PST

BookbagsaleI have really loved making these. I've talked about them a lot, since last spring, really: It started with this bit of dialogue, then this nostalgic rainstorm, then this tribute to my college friends and my favorite book, then this peek inside, and then I almost got sick of them when they did this. But I think I'm done now, I think. Sixty-five of one thing is a lot more than I usually do of any one thing, but it's a true testament to how much I enjoyed everything about these. I even took my own to the library yesterday and got severely scolded by the librarian for my overdue fines. I had a LOT of overdue fines. I'm actually embarrassed to say how much, because Andy will read this and then I'll get more grief. Let's just say it was nearing the triple digits and I wish I were kidding. I actually didn't know it could even go that high. It was definitely a record for me. I thought maybe at a certain amount they just turned the counter off, or something. I figure this is how I donate to my non-profit organization of choice. It's almost like I can't return them on time, or something. Like, I look at the due date and it suggests to me that that's the day I put them in the car, and then if I happen to be driving past a library branch sometime in the next two weeks, I should drop them in. Meanwhile, 25 cents per book, per day, ca-ching ca-ching. I have a hard time believing that people were impatiently waiting for me to return Clouds: Biography of a Country House, but maybe they were. Three weeks is just not long enough when you insist on checking out eleven books at once. More than will fit in the bookbag, I'll admit.

ANYway. Where are we here. My mention of L.G. and M.P. was information I got from L.G. herself here, back in September. I don't make this stuff up, people. That's my little pop quiz to see if you've really been reading this blog.

*Bookbags will be here, and scrap bags here. Just refresh the pages to see the Paypal buttons at noon if you go there before hand.

May 16, 2007

Calico Concoction

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I have some scrap bags ready for tomorrow. I was going to do just fabric (and these really are "scraps," some as small as just a few inches, some even just strips), but then I started to go a little bonkers.

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Yep. I figured if I was going to take the time to prepare the bags, I'd include some of the vintage passementerie stuff that's building up around here again. So these scrap bags have fabric as well as a vintage pattern and a few other notions/flowers/buttons/ribbon. A few extra little things, kind of like the Passementerie Packs I did last winter, but with a little of everything in one bag. I only made twenty of these. But they'll be in my shop tomorrow at noon, too, with the bookbags.

I don't really know what to think about the Gilmore Girls finale last night, do you? I miss them already. I actually thought it was an oddly appropriate episode, sort of saturated with the collective feeling of being kind of . . . ripped off. It all ended so fast. I was glad Luke and Lorelei kissed (though, honestly, those two kiss like they're at a junior-high dance or something). All I can say is that I hope Lauren Graham can take a little time off now, and find time to date then marry Matthew Perry, thereby fulfilling all my hopes and dreams for both of them.

May 14, 2007

Where a Fine Layer of Half-Baked Bookbags Slowly Appeared, Covering Every Surface

Bookbags1You know that old phrase "bookbags covering every surface"? You don't? THAT'S weird. We say it around here all the time. "Should we eat this dinner at the dining room table?" "Can't. There's bookbags covering every surface." "Can I stop by and visit you this afternoon?" "I wish, but bookbags are covering every surface, so we'll have to meet somewhere else." "What have you been up to, hunny?" "I have no clue, but there are bookbags covering every single surface. . . ."

I'm planning thirty-two this time. It's only a couple more than I had last time, but I really am pretty much out of sheets. Not to mention mojo. So I seriously doubt there will be more of these anytime soon. Not to pressure you or anything. Nevertheless, these will be on sale at the Posie web shop Thursday, May 17, at 12 noon PST. And maybe this time I can upload the pages to the shop without forgetting half the photos, but I never really can promise that. I get so nervous on sale days that I just start flailing around and all sorts of crazy things happen. You probably know that.

I think I'm going to do fabric scrap bags, too. The basket of little remnants in my studio is overflowing, and they're just so pretty. A half-pound bag of little scraps for applique or flowers or whatever? Yeah, I think I'll do that, too. So bags and scraps, Thursday.

May 07, 2007

Bouttie Box

Poufs4 I ever-so-slightly forgot to remember that the Pouf Boutonnieres are making a reprisal in Country Living this June. Or now, rather — orders are trickling in for them today, though I haven't seen the issue yet. If anybody has a copy of June's CL and wants to scan the page for me, would you?* I just want to see which one they've included so I know if I still have the fabric for it. They asked to see a dozen but I think they only picked one to run, and duh, I forgot to ask which one.

If you're looking to get a Pouf, they live over here at the Posie web shop. I made forty of them while watching three movies yesterday (The Holiday [B-], Come Early Morning [A], The Last Kiss [A-].) Thank goodness for On-Demand is all I can say, because my tookus was grounded and didn't leave the sofa! Cut cut stitch stitch glue glue tie tie. But now, what a miracle, I'm a little prepared. When does that happen, never. Almost never.

*Thanks for sending the scans! I appreciate that you guys!

May 03, 2007

Alicia's Squid

Ooooh, look what I got. . . .

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It's squid, one of my favorite things. My car broke down across from Zupan's yesterday, and I had to leave it and walk home. All my plans were suddenly, frustratingly canceled, car left on the side of the road — but once I'd walked away from the Volvo the afternoon became leisurely and pedestrian. I was glad I wasn't fifteen miles away as I'd been the day before, and glad that my niece wasn't with me, as she would've been had it happened a few hours later.

So I stopped in and picked up some fancy groceries. It was kind of fun to just get a few things, knowing that I had a long walk and could only carry a little. Oh, to shop like that every day. The walk was actually really beautiful — through a neighborhood I rarely walk through, sort of old and tightly packed and blowsy and overgrown, with houses right up close to the sidewalk, everything already covered with a fuzz of moss and green whisker and petal. I wish I'd had my camera. Now that I have big black maybe I'll carry small silver around in my bag with me whenever I go out. Seeing as how the car keeps breaking down (this is twice in two months).

So, shopping, I pretended I was my little Italian grandmother, who bought milk by the quart instead of the gallon. I couldn't resist the calamarata pasta, thinking of the story my father always told of me, around two, sitting at my grandma's kitchen table with squid tentacles hanging out of my mouth, chewing, chewing, chewing. I love squid. I think it's genetic. And we didn't call it "calamari" in our family. We called it straight-up "squid," which doesn't make it more appealing if you're not into it, I wouldn't think. My mother is not into it.

So, though I remembered the smell of it cooking in tomato sauce at grandma's, it was something that my mom only made for my dad a few times in the twenty-some years I lived at home. And I remember her just being completely grossed out while cleaning the slimey, purple-freckled windsocks. They slipped and slid from hand to sink, where they flopped and glistened on the stainless. At Zupan's, you can buy the tubes (ask for them at the seafood counter — they rarely have them out), already cleaned, along with little baby tentacles, so different from the giant pimply feelers of my youth. So to go with the calamarata pasta, I bought a pound of tubes and tents for my first at-home squid-cooking attempt.

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Alicia's Squid

1 lb. cleaned squid tubes and little tentacles (mostly tubes, though)
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
1/2 c. olive oil plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
1 shallot, diced
splash of white wine
1 16-oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
2 t. sugar
3 T. chopped parsley
1 lb. calamarata pasta, or whatever hearty type you like

Combine garlic and 1/2 c. olive oil in blender and grind into a thick paste.

Rinse squid and dry with paper towels. Slice squid tubes once lengthwise and then again crosswise, so you have four smaller pieces. Pour garlic stuff over squid and combine all with hands. Let this sit and marinate while you do everything else.

Boil large pot of salted water and add pasta, cooking it according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 2 T. olive oil in large saute pan. Toss shallot in and saute on low-medium heat for ten minutes until caramelized and golden. Add a splash of white wine and turn heat up a bit until alcohol burns off, maybe three or four minutes. Add the squid/garlic mixture and saute until garlic cooks a bit and squid gives off its liquid. They say to only cook squid for three minutes on high heat (you can also cook it for at least twenty minutes on low heat — but anything in between these two apparently results in rubber). I wound up cooking mine for about six minutes, though. Three was . . . not enough for me. Add tomatoes, sugar, and parsley and bring everything up to a simmer.

Add drained pasta to saute pan and coat with sauce, or serve sauce over plain pasta immediately, and top with grated Parmesan. Add a little grilled focaccia, too. Pretend you live in a little sun-baked white-washed cottage on the Mediterranean and enjoy. It really does taste like a bowl of the sea.

May 02, 2007

Apple Bake Redux

Kitchen1The studio, I couldn't deal. I went in there, looked around, and walked right out. The kitchen, it was calling me. I really wanted that apple thing to work, and we had new apples. Not to mention that the weather was really fall-like. I put on a sweater, turned on the heat, and started peeling.

Kitchen3When I looked at the recipe (from Fran Warde's Food for Friends) again I saw that it said "Apple Bake," not cake. This whole thing is more like a dense, eggy pancake. Okay. I get it now.

Kitchen4 It started bubbling before I even put it in the oven. Must be the baking powder. It called for self-rising flour but I didn't have that so I added baking powder and a bit of salt. Here are some baking substitutions you might want to bookmark. I love charts like this. I think the computer is such a great kitchen appliance, don't you?

Kitchen5 It was still a little gooey in the middle, but the rest of it — oh yeah. Or, wait — there's still something wrong.

Kitchen6 There we go. That's what I'm talking about baby.

April 29, 2007

Apple-Cake Bust-Up

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I made the Norwegian Apple Cake from Food for Friends yesterday, but I did lots of things wrong, and it was a disaster. Firstly, I beat an extra 1/4 c. sugar in with the eggs because I didn't realize that that 1/4 cup was supposed to go on top of the cake, not in with the eggs. I think I overbeat everything, too. I should've noticed that it looked kind of meringuey when I took it out. . . .

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Whoopsie, it wouldn't cook. This is after an extra half hour. Apple-egg-sugar soup. Maybe I overheated the milk and butter when I was trying to melt the butter. So many problems. Oh well.The recipe called for me to sprinkle nutmeg (I don't like nutmeg so I used cinnamon) on top of the thing, but I think next time I'd mix up the sugar and cinnamon before putting it on.

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The edges that did cook were way too sweet. It was all too sweet. But it smelled good, at least. Need to get more apples and try this again. It looked great in the book, I swear!

April 27, 2007

Post-Nasal Catch-up

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Feeling better, still not great. But I'm going to try and answer email, write thank yous, return phonecalls, pay bills, generally get caught up. Or maybe not. I have totally been letting those things go lately and I really don't like that. But sometimes I just cannot keep up, can you? I can't. Sometimes I long for the days of smoke signals, or tin cans and string.

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I'll most likely be getting more bookbags together next week, so please watch the blog for an announcement of when they'll go into the web shop, probably the second week of May? All of these first fabrics are gone now, but there are new ones in the laundry right now. Oooo, I can't wait. They just make me happy. All that mellow popsicle-colored softness.

I think it's supposed to be nice around here this weekend. I'm totally jonesin for my hammock, with its ginormous feather bed, some sunshine, and time to read all the books piling up. No less than five separate people have written to tell me to read Astrid & Veronika, which, surprisingly, I had already bought but hadn't read yet. Isn't that weird? I thought it was weird but maybe it's not, maybe this book is going around. I'm so out of it I wouldn't know. But anyway, that's my plan — catching up.

April 23, 2007

Flowers and Hearts

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I read photography manuals all weekend, returned the ones that were not appropriate, got more, etc. I haven't decided which are my favorites yet, but I'll let you know after it's sunk in a bit. Did you know that you can see what f-stop and shutter speed and even ISO you used on your (original) photos when you go to File/File Info/Section; EXIF in Photoshop? I never knew that.

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This is an old apron, hanging next to the closet door on which I painted a stencil right after we moved here. It was my first stencil, and I remember I just did it with regular acrylic paint. Maybe I traced it and then painted it freehand, because it seems like acrylic would seep into the spaces between the door and the stencil. I actually can't remember — it was seven years ago. Normally I don't go in for stencils, but as with anything else, I guess it's not the medium, but what you do with it. Some mediums get such bad reputations, don't they? That just keeps things interesting.

This was f/3.7, 1/65 sec, ISO 80. I plan to start using these terms in casual conversation. Conditioning, etc.

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April 19, 2007

Second Try

Secondphotos1I really do appreciate your comments yesterday — good advice, reassurance, commiseration, encouragement. I liked what Hannah said, that she often thinks she has to know everything about something before she can do anything. Taryn said to learn one thing at a time, which of course didn't actually occur to me. And so I set out to learn maybe one thing every day.

I took a bunch more pictures yesterday, just setting up a bunch of different stuff. Cassi, what would I do without your pincushion. I really think it's the most photogenic thing on the property. If you want to practice focusing on stuff, flower-topped pins work pretty well. I'm starting to love the big black already, people, though it really prefers the tripod. And yes, I think the color on the Fuji seems more realistic, more sophisticated, really — it has a more soulful quality. I really do think that. But I also think that when I understand the white balance among other things, I can control that a bit more. The depth of field is just deeper, more thorough. Here's one with the focus on the glass vase (thanks Steph, and thank you for the bowls Natalea!).

Secondphotos2 It occurred to me that learning about the camera feels a bit like Latin, like learning Latin felt. I only studied it for one year and have, of course, retained nothing. But I remember our teacher talking about what a "clean" language it was — there were so few irregulars, you just had to know what to do, what ending to put on, to say what you were trying to say. It was so beautiful that way, he said, the most beautiful language, no gray areas, no kinda-sorta right. Obviously, if you didn't know a thing, you couldn't make it work. But if you knew what it was that you had to know, you could do it — it wasn't personal, it was technical. You didn't have to cajole it, you just had to turn the knobs.

Secondphotos8 It reminded me of something I hadn't thought of in so long. It was this one autumn afternoon when I was sitting in the McDonald's drive-thru, waiting for my hamburger, small fries, and orange drink with my mom. I was about ten or eleven and had just finished my horseback-riding lesson. Riding was never easy for me — if it was a good day, I loved it. If it was a bad day, I hated it. And I really felt like I had no idea whether it was going to be a good day or a bad day, and didn't really understand my own role in either of those kinds of days. I thought sometimes the horse "listened" to me, sometimes he dumped me on the ground. I was convinced he was dumping me, as if I had nothing to do with it. I see now, when I look back on those years, that riding well or riding poorly had everything to do with me, and my own confidence in myself. Occasionally, other environmental factors applied, or the horse felt her own emotions, such as they were, but still, as the rider it was my job to consider and respond to all of that, and still get us over the fence. It was too complicated! It was too much! As I sat in the passenger's seat of my mom's car in the drive-thru, I started thinking about this, and got progressively twitchier, and more upset and irritated. "Agh!" I said. "Agggghhh!" My mother passed me my Happy Meal, pulled the car back onto the road, and said, "My god, what is the matter?" And I bleated, "YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE! YOU JUST HAVE TO TURN THE WHEEL AND PUSH THE PEDALS AND IT DOES EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT IT TO DO!!!" And then I probably started with the sobbing, or at least the gulping, blotchy earnestness, all still in my riding clothes. To that end, I offer Exhibit A:

Rider

Mmm-kay. Yep, that would be me, circa 1980ish. How my mother did not fall over laughing while taking this picture, which I made her do the day I got this outfit, in front of the garage which I felt looked most "barnlike," I don't know. Sigh. But anyway. About the camera.

Secondphotos5 What I'm trying to say is that the camera is nothing like this. It is nothing like a horse. It is like Latin, obviously, or the car. There are things about it that you need to know, and when you know those things, you can set the dials how they need to be in order to go where you want, say what you want. You might have flair, or something say, or an urge to drive fast, but, you know, you gotta know how to use the clutch. I, of course, approach the camera as if it were the horse. I look at it suspiciously, and believe it will feel my insecurity through my fingertips, and dump me.

But I think I'm feeling better about it. I just have to practice some more. And of course get a book.

April 18, 2007

It Looks Different

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I got a new camera yesterday, a Fuji S9100. Don't ask me why I got that one. I went to the camera store and said, "Hi, I'd like to take a photo that I can print out at 8 x 10, and I don't have a lot of money." And the guy said, "This can do that, you'll like it." Done. This is how I make major purchases. I like to get them over with as quickly as possible. I research afterward — buyer's remorse seems more comfortable, somehow, than making the decision, but I seldom have remorse. I don't feel like I deserve to, since I put so little effort into the choosing. Nevertheless, what I do do is, you know, ask the right people. But don't you ask me, because I am not one of those people. Okay.

Newcamera7So, I got the camera home and circled it warily. Then I sat down and read the manual. No seriously, I really did. I didn't understand the manual, but I read the manual. I was completely afraid of the camera, which is big and black and looks very professional, and has a million buttons and dials on it. To me, there are two kinds of cameras — small and silver, big and black. Now, you know how much I love my small and silver one. I really really love it. It's a Canon PowerShot A80. I set it on "portrait" mode, grab my focus point, and shoot, many times a day, with happy, rosy results. Whatever's happening inside that little beast when it's on "portrait" mode is good for me. I don't know exactly what it is, of course (nor do I really want to), but I know I like it.

Newcamera12

These photos were all taken yesterday afternoon — a very rainy, hail-y, gloomy afternoon — as I just went around and snapped things with the new big black. I kept turning all the dials this way and that, quite nervously, like some kind of cartoon character using a cartoon camera. I just wanted to get one good shot, even accidentally, just so I would know it was possible. I figured that if I had the one good shot, I could determine how to get it again later, but at least I would know if was possible.

Newcamera10It's kind of amazing how much a part of my vocabulary the language spoken by that camera, the Canon, has become. I feel really comfortable with it, or rather, with what I do with it. It is able to do much more than what I do with it. But nevertheless, I don't feel it's melodramatic to say that that camera actually changed my life. When I got the Canon in 2005, I really felt like I had been given a whole new medium of expression. It was just a nicer, easier camera than any I'd had. And it was amazing to suddenly have a whole new . . . vehicle, I guess. And it just didn't feel hard to take a good photo with that thing. But it must have been hard, the first day. It must have been.

Newcamera13Of course, I've always been much more interested in the thing I am taking a photo of than I am the technical part of how it comes to be. So when I found something that worked, I just did it over and over and over again, allowing the subject to change, not the method. I liked the idea of little, clear things rising to the surface, like bubbles. Just for a second, they're clear, then bloop.

Newcamera8I shot all these without a tripod or anything, just walking around. You may not be able to tell, but to me, these photos look really different than what I am used to taking with small silver. It became obvious pretty quickly that I was uncomfortable with this new thing. It can do so much more than I'm used to. Or rather, there are more choices for me to make; to make them, I need to know a lot more than I do. I resolve again to be a person who can happily change and expand, though I am so often inclined to stay curled up, like the fiddlehead fern, or a pill bug. It's very immature, and something I really don't like about myself. It's fear, I guess.

Newcamera1Yeah, all this, and I just want to get the fracking Fuji to focus. I want to take a picture, but apparently what I need is actually therapy. Grrreat. Welcome to my life.

April 17, 2007

Just Working

Straps3 Working, not too much thinking if I can help it, just sending prayers east, toward Virginia.

April 12, 2007

Bookbags, Today, Noon!

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Update: Thanks everyone! Things are sold out now, but I'll take a fabric inventory after everything's made and see if there is any left for another batch. THANK YOU!

*Card-catalog card designed here via Amy via Theresa. Thanks guys!

April 10, 2007

Free Pattern

Blanket72dpi2 The eyelet-like yoke of yesterday's sweater reminded me that I never formatted the Tiramisu Baby Blanket for you. Click on the button in the right-hand sidebar to download the pdf. Organic cotton is super-yummy, but you can use another worsted-weight something if you want, no problem. It's easy to do and I think you'll like it. Please enjoy!

April 09, 2007

Pickets and Posts

Ceciliasweater7 Wow, that weekend went fast. I don't hate Mondays, but I definitely could've used one more day. We have a new cedar picket fence, which is adorable. There was only one re-do (when I came out and saw that the first eight pickets were about three inches too high, and gently insisted they come off [eeek — thank you hun, really] ) and two smashed-thumb incidents, one of which occurred on Easter Sunday. I worried for several seconds that the entire neighborhood would be treated to an Easter soliloquy hollered entirely in profanity, but Andy quickly hightailed it into the house and shouted a bit in there, which sent the dog into a far corner, out of which she didn't come for a while. She doesn't stick around much when the going gets rough. But everything worked out just fine in the end and the fence is very sweet. I'll take a picture today if it stops raining.

Ceciliasweater6

I weeded one half of the front parkway and mulched it and when I was done I felt that I should've gone horseback-riding instead, since my body felt as if I'd just finished a 14-hour trail ride. Oh. My. Goodnessgraciousme. Achy achy. Achy achy achy. I came in in time to clean up, hop into bed, and get ready to watch The Wind in the Willows as mentioned, but promptly fell asleep not fifteen minutes after it started. Having TiVo gives one zero-incentive to stay awake while recording, I tell you. I could hear Andy laughing at the movie beside me, especially during that "never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever, etc." part, which sounded really funny, so I'm going to try again to watch it tonight.

This is the circular-yoke sweater for Susan's book which, in the end, was very, very simple and when Susan sees it she will absolutely think "WHAT is this girl's problem — it's so obvious what had to happen to make this work." Well, Susan's so kind she probably won't think that but that's what I'd think if I'd witnessed all the flailing and acrobatics surrounding this cardi's creation, and then saw the final, rather straightforward and obvious solution. I do feel that I earned the solution, at least, so that's nice. I threaded some of the Liberty fabrics through the posts of these double crochets like those eyelet trims I used to have on my Easter dresses when I was a kid. I love those ribbon-laced tiny ruffles.

Ceciliasweater3

Anyway, things started are getting underway and even finished. I'm going to put the bookbags on sale Thursday at noon PST. If any sell at the exact same time, I'll definitely try to remake them, or something very similar.

That's not a real geranium. It's a fake plant from JoAnn's, seven years ago. I put them in my window boxes on the upstairs window — gotta love the no-maintenance garden after pulling all those weeds in the front one. Oooof.

April 05, 2007

Happy Weekend, Everybunny!

Bunny9 This cute little bun-bun was made yesterday courtesy of Jennifer Murphy's tutorial. We stuck her en pointe into a spool of vintage thread, made pineapple smoothies, and went back to dreaming about Easter baskets, egg hunts, and new beginnings.

Oh, and don't forget about The Wind in the Willows on PBS Sunday night!

April 03, 2007

Only Grannies and Cats, Only Ever Them

April2014

That's right. This blog is now only ever about granny squares and cats. That's it. Every day, "My cat is so funny!" or "Look, another square, wow, man." It bears a lot of similarity to the blog I'll have when I'm 88, which will also be about grannies and cats, no doubt, but couldn't possibly be more boring than I am now, so if you want to stop reading now and just come back in fifty years, I won't blame you.

This quilt kind of reminds me of the squares, and it was made by an actual granny, Andy's grammy, Ruth. These squares are a little over an inch big, and the whole thing is zig-zagged within an inch of its life. It is sturdy. I love it. I just put it on the couch this weekend, traded out the wool-plaid throws we usually keep around and replaced them with the cottony quilts. The nice thing about making 'ghans in Oregon and not being done in time for the weather to get hot is that it usually always gets chilly at night, through the summer. So you always need 'ghans, of one kind or another, around.

Squares1

When I look at that quilt, sometimes I have to remind myself to "see" the individual fabrics in each square. There are so many disparate colors and shapes you wouldn't think it would all work together, but of course it does. Nevertheless, there are definitely fabrics in there I can't imagine ever choosing on purpose. It made me look at my granny squares individually again. When I'm making each square, I'm mostly looking at it for itself, but I will admit that in the back of my mind I have the rest of them lurking; I am conscious of not wanting to use the same colors over and over so that they look like slightly different renditions of the same melody. No. I want them to look like themselves, and be quite different from each other. I don't want the whole thing, when it's all stitched together, to look just like lots of the "same" patch over and over.

Squares2

That said, I also want the squares to feel individually spontaneous, uncalculated, rather clashy. This year's "clash" is next year's "cool," so I consciously try to unconsciously choose colors and not care too much about what I'm choosing. If that makes sense. People have talked about different ways of making "random" happen and I'm not naturally great at it. But let me tell you, forty-eight squares — forty-eight squares. You stop caring somewhere around fourteen. I'm in the second half of the 'ghan now and I only barely care what colors I'm using, though I will admit to having bought a few more skeins of the edgier colors, like mustard, chocolate brown, weird orange.

Squares5

This is another reason why, after the first four, I stopped stitching them together. (Actually, I'll be single crocheting them all together.) I am actually going to wait until I'm completely finished with all forty-eight and then arrange, and then stitch. That's because I know that I have some interesting colors that I only picked up halfway through doing this and I don't want to backload the blanket with those colors, or with red. I do sort of want them scattered throughout. There is enough mindlessness in the stitch pattern itself that I should think it won't be too much trouble to care a little bit about how they go together.

Squares6

Some of these squares haven't been blocked yet, as I mentioned yesterday, and you'll see that they look kind of twisty. Blocking doesn't completely eliminate that — I think it has to do with where each new color starts, and how the ends get sort of pulled smooth — but it helps, and I figure that once the thing is in use, if all its twisty squares are lined up to sort of "pull" against each other it'll all get "square" somehow. In its own way. We'll see. I totally need more green, too, so so much for busting the stash. Now I'm having to buy. DAMN. What can you do.

Squares7

As mentioned, these squares are based on Erika Knight's "Modern Afghan" squares from Simple Crochet, but to me they are just the classic that everyone knows and loves. If you're wondering how this blanket has come to be, please just read back through the posts about it — all I know is there, and there is lots of good info and discussion at the Granny-Along blog, too. I need to update my posts there. It's amazing how many people are working on these and how different they all are. There are almost ninety participants!

Squares3_2

I still want to paint the guest room, where this 'ghan will live. It's been pale pink for seven years and just ready for a freshen. I am still thinking blue, but I always paint my rooms blue. There are SEVEN blue rooms in our house. That's almost the whole house. Of course, those shades of blue range from gray to turquoise, but still — blues. I like blue, I guess. That is a very, very hot room in the summer, facing due west. Maybe it should be blue. Maybe I'll wait until I've finished the 'ghan.

Kitters1

What do you think, sweet Vi? I sense you have an opinion.

April 02, 2007

Where my cat again gets me to do what she wants, even when I'm sleeping.

I woke up early the other morning and noticed this little cube-y shaped blob at the end of the hall.

Blobcat1

I am blind as a bat without my glasses, but even lens-less and from across the house I could tell that it was staring at me, imploring me to rise.

Blobcat2

It was a little cat, sitting in a nest of messed-up 'ghan squares, looking (typically) concerned that things had stalled out.

Blobcat3

She is probably right to be concerned. I have a history of leaving broke-down cars on the side of the road.

She does look sad, doesn't she?

Blobcat4

Blobcat5

Blobcat6

Don't worry so much, Bridget! I have nine squares I haven't even blocked yet. They're all downstairs on the coffee table. I've been making one a night, after I'm done with my other stuff. It's granny-square dessert. No-calorie, and you even burn six or seven cals while making one, I bet. I'll show you tomorrow, when there's more than dawn-light to photograph them by, ahem.

March 30, 2007

Bready in No Time

Bready1 I have been a very bad blog reader of late, and am barely checking in on everyone. Naughty. If I would read more carefully, I would've noticed that Amy said the no-knead bread she and half the world baked took . . . 24 hours. I missed that part. I got all my stuff out and then saw that part. And then decided to do this one instead. So Aim, if you're jonesin', this is crazy easy and good and fast.

This is no-knead bread that seems especially appropriate for breakfast because it's sort of sweet. I like it hot out of the oven with a bit of butter and some honey, but it's also amazing as toast the next day. It was my college roommate's recipe so I don't know where it came from, but we often had it with chili for dinner, too — something about that hint of sweetness with the heat of the chili. While the weather is still a bit damp and cold as now, it's so nice. It gets mixed up with a spoon, rises for almost an hour, then dumped straight into its pan.

Bready2 Ann's No-Knead Bread

Combine and set aside:
2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. salt
2 pkgs. dry yeast (1/4 oz. each)

Heat until warm:
1 c. water
1 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil

Have on hand:
1 egg
2 to 2 1/2 c. flour
butter

Mix egg with liquids, then stir all into flour mixture. Blend at lowest speed on mixer, then blend on medium for 3 minutes. By hand stir in another 2 to 2 1/2 c. flour. Cover, let rise 50 minutes until light and doubled in size. Stir down. Spoon into greased  6" x 9" loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes. Brush top with butter.

Bready3 Stick a bamboo skewer in the center to test. You want it to come out clean but this is kind of a soft bread, so don't overdo it.

Bready4 Munch munch.

Have a good weekend, y'all. Oh, and thank you for the crock-pot cookbook recommendations! Going to the library to test some out. Your suggestions are really helpful — thank you!

March 28, 2007

Straight lines off of circles: Oh, funny. Hilarious. I'm laughing.

Circleyoke5 Damn you, circular Yoke. You're cute, but you're making me crazy. And mad. But mostly crazy. Here you are after the left front got frogged and restarted three times. This one wasn't right either. I think you're working now, Left Front (not-photographed-fifth-incarnation-of-Left-Front), but that remains to be seen (today). I recognize you're all (Yoke, Front, Sleeve-in-theory) playing hard to get here, and that's just so adorable of you, really, just, that's funny. You're so funny. Ha ha.

But I will get you. I will.

Circleyoke2

Because Super Doggie is here to save the day. Thanks, Auds. You're the best.

March 27, 2007

Millie Cardigan

Milliesweater2_2

I was at the bookstore yesterday looking at the crochet books and found two that look really good. (I was actually there looking for cookbooks for crock-pots [elegantly re-branded as "slow cookers," but I still cheerily call them crock-pots, conjuring a sort of lazy Winnie the Pooh–ish yummy-in-my tummy-ness] and became immediately overwhelmed — who knew there would be an entire shelf-and-a-half of them? Eeek. Any recommendations welcome. I had no idea which one to get.) If you are new to crocheting, or even if you just need a refresher course, The Crochet Answer Book seems very helpful. It's tiny, about four by six inches, and I'm going to keep it in my yarn basket indefinitely. It's very comprehensive and concise and a great general resource — just what I needed.

I also got Teach Yourself Visually: Knitting Design, not because I'm a knitter, but because one of the most challenging things I encounter when designing things in crochet is determining standard measurements for things like armhole lengths, ease, sleeve-cap shape, and stuff like that. YarnStandards.com has general info, but this book gives schematics and detailed measurements for all sorts of potential design options. It even tells you how many stitches and rows you need to decrease/increase based on gauge to achieve certain shapes. I don't know why this is the first time I've seen this book. I told you I was slow. Talk about unnecessarily reinventing the wheel, as I've been doing.

Nursery10

This is a little crocheted puff-sleeved baby cardi I designed last week, inspired by this poufy gathered blossom from the nursery day. The cardi's for an upcoming book by my lovely friend Susan, who owns the delectable yarn store Loop in London (remember when I went mental when she called me?). I can't wait for this book. Knowing Susan, it's going to be gorgeous and understated and bright. Books take a long time to happen and this one's a ways away, but I'll keep you posted.

March 21, 2007

Ographizing

Crostini2

As you may know, it's Chefography week on Food TV. We've watched Emeril, Rachael Ray, Ina, Nigella, and even the second half of Sandra Lee this week. It is inevitable that whenever I watch a biography or an interview with someone, I can't help but like them more, which, I suppose, is how it should be. (Mark Ruffalo, one of my favorite actors was on Inside the Actor's Studio this week, too, though I don't know how I could've liked him more than I already did. If you've never seen You Can Count on Me, stop reading here and go directly to the video store.)

But I am eager to know the backstory, almost every time. There is context for everything, and I am usually keen to understand how and why and what people have done with their lives. Felicia, who is a great fellow-fan of Ina and Nigella, sent me a link to this article about Ina in the New York Times on Monday and I found it fascinating. Feleesh and I agreed that we both loved how Ina seemed to resist pressure to expand her offerings (a magazine, more TV shows, a line of food shops) in ways that would compromise her life. "There is a balance between having a life and having a business," Ina said, and we nod vigorously at that — yup, we knew it [wink]! Just enough is quite enough. Even in lives and with businesses that are just lived and run by us regular little peeps.

I can also watch E! True Hollywood Story, Biography, Intimate Portrait (remember that show?), or almost any interview and become interested in almost anyone, even if I thought I didn't "like" them. I missed the first twenty minutes of Sandra Lee's chefography, for instance, but they kept alluding to her difficult childhood throughout the show, and as I watched her explain her concept I found myself growing more and more understanding, even sympathetic, though we snobby Paulsons avidly harass the television when we watch her show (the ever-rotating kitchen decor makes me want to rip it all down and stomp on it hysterically, but after she explained it [the kitchen thing] I understood it). And I loved how she said she felt sorry for the make-up artist on her show because she (Sandra) cried so much and so regularly when first doing it, frustrated by the feeling that she just couldn't communicate it all accurately, as passionately as she felt it (so then I felt bad that I am always smacking my forehead every time she uses a singular verb with a plural subject, but not that bad). Hers is not the kind of cooking I aspire to do, but I understand where she's coming from. I'm glad there's room — I hope there's room — for all of it.

So all that should hopefully make you quite sympathetic to me as I point you toward an interview I gave yesterday at Create a Connection. Tara asked some really unique questions that I really enjoyed answering. That whole making vs. designing thing got me all in a tizzy, and I thought about it for the rest of the day. I don't think about the distinction that much, but now I kind of think it's all designing. Isn't it? There is a subjectivity that is inherent in making anything, which seems to qualify it, technically, but, you know, I say — however you gotta get there, just make something.

And also, Terry just wrote and said the finalists have been posted for the Softie Awards, and voting will start soon. The amazing array of work over there blows my mind. If you entered and didn't get chosen, you should not feel bad for one millisecond — it was seriously subjective and impossible to choose. Everything was so cool.

And also, about the blocking — thanks for all the discussion yesterday (see the comments on that post for lots of hints and tips). As mentioned, my 'ghan is made of mostly Baby Cashmerino on a D hook, and if you have questions about other fibers or techniques, I know that the posts over at the Granny Along will be very helpful —there is a ton of great advice and experience (as well as "before" and "after" photos of blocked pieces — I haven't taken any of mine, but I'll try) over there. I don't have enough experience outside of my own very regularly used yarns and ways to feel comfortable answering a lot of what was asked, I must say.

OH — and I almost forgot about that crostini. Forget what show I was watching on PBS, but they made something like this on Sunday. Just grill some day-old bread and rub it with the clove of raw garlic, sliced longways. Then spread it with a mixture made from 2 c. ricotta cheese, 1/2 c. grated Parmesan, and a handful of torn fresh basil. Then top it with some frothy curls of prosciutto and — manga. Yummo (as Rache would say).

'Kay. That's all. Have a good day, the first whole one of spring. More flowers here for you tomorrow, just wait.

March 20, 2007

Getting the Grannies to a Mellow-Groove

Blocking2

Twenty grannies done, twenty-eight to go, though it's all on hold for a bit as I finish up some commissioned patterns that are due . . . pronto. I have so many things going on backstage, most of which involve other peoples' projects, so I must be coy. Making grannies is my little end-of-the-day treat.

Kitty1

The Bee is irritated that I've moved all the squares to the table, so she's defected to our bedroom, and kicked Violet off of the ripple blankie. The cats can't be on the same blanket at the same time, and at some point last week, Bridget, perched next to a pinned-down granny in the guest room, just said, "Hey, what's my problem. There's a perfectly good finished blanket over there. See ya, sap," and booted Vi off with a hiss and a swat.

Pins4

Sometimes I think my greatest incentive in finishing a square is getting to go upstairs and block it. I am blocking all squares as I finish them, because blocking absolutely transforms these babies from slightly fraught, tweaked-out, anxious little trapezoids to drapey, blissed-out grown-ups — they're all mature and perfectly square and presentable after spa-treatment. To achieve that end, simply pin them out (with stainless-steel pins, so they don't rust when wet) into eight-inch squares using a tape measure. Be sure to add three or four pins per side, and tack down more than just the corners. (I use the guest bed because the mattress is old and the quilts on it are hard-working old dogs that can take a sprinkle or two, but I know that people have used towels or padded boards to do this. Just use whatever flat, water-and-pin-friendly surface you have.) Then, spray it all with a water bottle until it's nice and saturated. Then leave it to dry completely, and when you return to unpin and lift you'll see how addictive this whole process is. I always get very psyched when I hear that someone hasn't ever blocked their work before because I know they will be so pleased with the transformation.

Pins3

Are there any other tips on blocking I should know about? I know there are a few ways to do it, but this is what I've always done. I plan to block the seams after I crochet all the squares together, as well. I can't wait. I think I'm going to repaint the guest room to go with this blanket when I'm done. Maybe blue, like the blue in that white-blue-pink-red square. Hydrangea blue. A granny flower.

March 14, 2007

Slow and Steady

Coffee6_1Drip drip drop. The coffee drips through its little one-serving filter. I think it took about twenty minutes but it was worth every tiny splash. Very, very strong — good to have around 2:30 p.m., when I routinely consider putting my head down on the keyboard. But I finished all the entries and am well on my way to completing my tax-ing chores. Yippee.

Coffee5Isn't that pretty? When all the coffee drips in (about another two inches) you stir it all up, then add ice. It'll keep you awake through several hundred Quicken entries, and you'll probably even have energy left to make a few more granny squares.

Grannies1

March 13, 2007

Coffee, Sweet and Frothy

Coffee1

I finally hit the wall yesterday afternoon. It's been really busy behind the scenes around here. When I got home from the P.O. yesterday, I was caught up with orders but there was a huge pile of tax stuff I needed to enter into the computer. I really suck at getting the tax stuff together. I regularly have visions of throwing my computer out the window, closely followed by the big box of receipts. I'm good at a few things: I have nice handwriting when I try. I can French braid anyone's hair. I'm able to set up the sprinkler to perfectly water the lawn and not the sidewalk. I can make a very smooth bechamel sauce. I can stop the fast-forward button on the Ti-Vo clicker at exactly the right time when cruising past commercials.

But I go completely mental when it comes to paperwork. I started over the weekend, and I'm about halfway done, and that's including approximately 3.8 hours of complaining. Yesterday, as morning became afternoon faster than I could believe (did you feel that, too?), I felt I needed some fancy coffee if I was going to stay in my seat.

So, I tried to make Vietnamese iced coffee, something I haven't had in years and years. I don't have a fancy Vietnamese coffee press; I just made some really, really strong coffee and added it to some sweetened condensed milk, then poured it all over ice. The coffee definitely needed to be stronger. But there is a very nice tutorial here, which I plan to try today, if I can find one of those little single-cup presses at the Asian grocery around the corner.

Coffee2'Cause I've got a lot more paperwork to do! Blagh.

March 09, 2007

Layers and Pleats and Pockets

Bookbags2

Thank you again for all the nice, helpful, funny, encouraging comments this week, honestly. I looked at the photo of the bookbags yesterday and thought that it kind of seemed like those strips of different fabrics were patched in, but actually they're layers, like ruffles, but pleated. I think these close-ups show it better.

Bookbags4I will be making these bags for sale, and will update the site next week, maybe, or the next. I want to do as many as I can all at once because cutting out the sheets is a challenge, for some reason. I don't have enough space to easily manage those huge pieces of fabric and it's the type of stuff you want to cut all on the same day. I've been stitching on all my rick-rack by hand lately, instead of just zooming down the ripples with the machine, and I really love the way it turns out. So, all that is to say that I'm so happy with these bags but they take quite a while to put together so it'll definitely be next week or the week after before I have as many finished as I'd like.

There's a pocket inside them, too.

Bookbags3

You keep your bike key, library card, and overdue fines in there.

March 08, 2007

Handbook

Snapbag Back before I went on and on and on and on and on and on about the cats and the crochet, I went on and on and on and on about the sheets. And the bookbags. Remember? Exactly.

Well, I owe my friend a bookbag. Jeanne-marie and I met in college, my freshman, her sophomore year. Twenty years ago now. We were out of touch for a while, until we got back in touch about a year ago, when I opened my orders one morning and saw one from her. She found me. So now we're back in touch every week or so and things like that — getting back in touch, staying so, this time — are my favorite things in life, in general.

In my life, twenty years ago, there was a book that changed me. I suppose it happens to everyone, at some time or another, or maybe it happens to book girls: One day, a book walks into the room, looks at you knowingly, and everything's different after that. It was the perfect book at the perfect time. It wasn't so much that I felt like the characters as it was that I wanted to feel like those characters. I'd had so little experience then. I'd made out with someone while sitting on a wall in an overgrown ruin in the rain in spring. I'd had three different boys fall in love with me for about four days at the exact same time; I'd immediately gotten laryngitis, and couldn't say a word. I'd swum in a quarry, drunk on strawberry Boone's Farm and screaming with laughter, on midsummer night. Someone had started crying in the cafeteria because it was occurring to him that I, not in love, wasn't crying, or about to. That was it, the sum total of real-life romance. But it was enough to keep me believing that everything was possible, each one of those moments landing in my lap like a sparkler, brief shots of lights and shine. I had read how it could be, and I was not wrong. It took a long time, but no, I wasn't wrong.

I doubt my friend and I have said a word to each other in twenty years that hasn't been uttered through the prism of our collective experience of this book, which I myself have read about six or seven times. I don't know if she's read it more than once, but like all true friends, she sees me there, and I see that she sees me, and so she is there, too. She'll know just what I mean by that. We were writers back then, so we thought complicated, overwrought things like this quite sincerely, and still do (ahem), allowed as we are to indulge each other in such things, as writers tend to when they grow up together: The unabashed display of the hopes and dreams you have for yourself blazes within every letter, on every short-story page you, hopeful, hand to your friend. The ones who love you anyway (even though you keep stuffing their mailboxes with your blazing pages), who don't gag, or laugh, or who laugh because they see themselves there, too, are the ones you keep. I wish I'd known before that when a friend shows you what they've written, they are really saying, "Can you still love me, even though I wrote this? Could you even, maybe, possibly even love me a tiny bit more?" I thought they were saying, "I'm having trouble with this dialogue." But that's not what they're saying, I don't think. They're saying, "Here's my dream of me." And then I tend to bangle and bungle and bongle about, crashing pots and pans in earnest effort to fix the dialogue, cause I am, at the end of the day, really pretty daft. Never ask your friends to criticize your work honestly. They will probably be as dumb as I am about what you're really asking. To fix your dialogue, ask people whose love you're not interested in securing, if there are any of those people. (Are there ever really any of those people?)

So, Jeanne-marie, a bookbag for you. And Martha and Pam, bookbags for you, just in case there are still some magic books out there we haven't read yet. . . .

Bookbags1

March 07, 2007

More of The Bridge, and Blobs and Holes

Squares8

The first fifteen. They're eight inches square, arranged "randomly" but mostly not sewn together yet. I'm using all the same yarns that I used for rippling — mostly Baby Cashmerino with other sport- and DK-weight yarns mixed in, chosen for color more than anything else. Most of the yarns are still from the stash, but I've spent a few bucks at Close Knit supplementing what I had with a few more-neutral colors — grays, olives, an aqua. I need some mustard, but otherwise, I'm happy. The mint green — it's okay. It works for me, in a weird way. It reminds me of that color they painted old garden tools, and shed doors. If I'd had my druthers I would've gone with gray, but it's a LOT of yarn. I had ten skeins of the mint but I'm pretty sure I'll only be able to finish the square-y top part with that, and I'll have to get more for the side part (all mint).

Squares9

Kim's seriously got the fever. She's organizing the 'ghan Olympics, I think, with events for everyone: today, the Granny-Along. (There is also a companion Flickr group and I forgot I was a member of the Grannysquares group, and there is also this granny-along group. I know that a few people mentioned that they'd started some other groups, too — there is a lot of super-cool granny-squaring going on out there!) I'm a terrible and unreliable joiner, historically, but I'm going to join the -along, my very first -along. I like seeing how everyone interprets these classics in their own ways. The variations on theme are infinite. It's wonderful.   

Squares11

For anyone who has written and asked me questions about the 'ghans, please read backwards through the posts here on the blog — I've tracked my sources and progress as thoroughly as I am able to, and any answers I have are already here. I made a decision early on with this to crochet on top of all the ends as I made color changes. I don't tie knots, I don't weave anything in — I am just holding the ends of the previous yarn on top of the previous row and going right over for several inches, and then leaving about a half-inch sticking out the back. I suspect this is not a very hardy way to handle ends — that is, they will most likely start snaking out, eventually, or after washing (though this will be hand-washed when necessary). But, knowing myself as I do, if I had to stop and weave in all these ends this thing would never get done. It just wouldn't. So I'm going with this method and we'll see what happens. I actually have no idea if it's the best thing to do, you know, for the health of the 'ghan — but at this point, for me, if there is to be a 'ghan at all, it'll be a 'ghan with its ends tucked uncomplicatedly into its rows. So it's the right thing to do to ensure the mere existence of the 'ghan. There could be a better way I don't know about, so I'm not necessarily recommending it, mind you — I'm just saying, this is what I'm doing.

I do very much hope that approach meets with Bridget's approval. As ever.

Squares13

Yeah. She's not buying it.

March 06, 2007

Shadow and Light

Bridge1Yesterday we walked across the Hawthorne Bridge and back. It was totally easy, so easy that when we were done we continued on about town, shopping for pickets (for a picket fence). Here I've been worried for years, thinking that walking over the bridge (as I was attempting to do when I had my accident) was some sort of goal, when really, I've been doing probably twice as many steps as bridge-crossing takes daily, without knowing it. That bridge always seemed so long. Not to get too metaphorical here, when really I mean this quite literally -- we walked over, we walked back, it was a nice afternoon, I was anxious to go shopping for pickets, I was more worried that I wouldn't be able to find the exact pickets I wanted.

There is probably a metaphor in the picket fence, but we won't go there today.

Squares7The sun made strong shadows on the ground like the blobs and holes on the granny squares. I officially have no life, by the way, because all I really ever do is sit around and make granny squares now. I have fifteen done, and I need forty-eight. And every time I go up to block the squares, which I do every time I finish two of them, the Bee shows up. It's really weird! She cracks me up. I swear I am waiting for her to start talking. "I don't like that one. No more pink. Quit with the pink already, jeesh. Hurry up, too."

The ripplers are going strong. I love this. So cool.

Thank you, everyone. Sincerely.

March 02, 2007

Where the Bee Comes to Oversee

Squares1 I know it sounds like I was joking about the cats and the crochet, but I don't think they were. I wasn't up here five minutes, blocking these squares, before I had a visitor, apparently come to check on the progress on her blanket.

Squares2I pinned these squares out to eight inches and sprayed them on the bed. The quilt, which had been under the ripple blanket for this treatment a few days before, was totally wrinkled, so I guess I did get some water on that one after all.

Squares5 The Bee is quite curious about her 'ghan. I was up here throughout the day, checking these squares and adding new ones, and every time I walked in that room, Bridget (the Bee) would come, seemingly out of nowhere, and perch nosily on bed, to see what we were doing now.

Squares4Unlike Violet, who has a hefty sense of entitlement (and whose palate is aesthetically undiscriminating), the Bee seems rather more interested. But her interest has a scary, nerve-wracking quality, as if the headmistress is looking over your shoulder, making sure you do it her way. The Bee is a bit wild. She's seven years old. We found her in the driveway with her mom and her siblings just a few days after we moved into this house. The kittens were six or seven weeks old and had clearly never been handled. We got the rest of them vaccinated and spayed and adopted, but we kept the Bee. She is not a lap cat. If she does ever step on you she does a dance like "Paws on fire! Paws on fire!" (Thanks for that one, Kathi.) Neither are you allowed to look directly at her. If you do she will punch you in your face. Getting punched by a cat, even a six-pound cat, is no picnic. So if you pet her, you must do it while looking at something else, say, a chair across the room, and imply that your fingertips just happened to rest upon her tiny head unconsciously. For any action undertaken with intention is abhorrent to the Bee, and she will flee. It's rather like owning a fairy. Or a little goblin.

But we love the Bee. She even seems to like me best, which is so rare for me, living with Andy Paulson as I do, where I'm quite sure that the only reason anyone ever puts up with me is because we're kind of a package deal. My popularity increased a bobillion-fold when we started hanging around together, and I'm not fool enough to think it had anything to do with me; I'm very, very used to creatures great and small following, fawning over, and generally preferring him. But the Bee follows me, and lets me kiss her downy forehead, and pummels my belly with her tiny paws, and watches me with her grass-green eyes. In the back of my mind I know it's probably only because I am not the one who tags her with anti-flea medicine every month (to which she responds with shock, hurt, and then incredulous fury, as if you had dropped hot oil on her collarbone; the Bee can really hold a grudge), but I'll take what I can get.

Squares6 If I have to make this cat a hand-crocheted DK-weight queen-size 'ghan to get her to love me, damnit, I will.

March 01, 2007

Cloister Blanket

Grannysquaresfinished1

Thank you! Y'all are so nice. So nice. More expressive than the feline set, certainly, though I will say that Violet has not left the ripple blanket in, what, three days now, so that's cat-ified appreciation for ya. It occurred to me early last night as I clambered into my ripply nest again with a huge, exhausted sigh (it's been a tough week, I have to say) that I might actually love the blanket enough for all of us combined. But thank you, as ever, for all the ripple love. I'm very flattered that it would inspire anyone else. I hope that everyone learns to crochet, I really do.

I learned to crochet about six years ago from the book Crocheting for Dummies and the first thing I made was one little granny square. I was in my late 20s before I even tried to knit or crochet; I did neither as a child. I'd had to "learn" to knit several times over several years before I could finally do it, and I'm still just a beginner. I was certainly not a natural. But I picked up crochet in one night, for some reason. It just felt right to me, especially after my knitting issues.

Nevertheless, whenever I teach people to crochet, I am careful to not over-emphasize how "easy" it supposedly is. A lot of people start knitting or crocheting when they have real need to relax, or do something fun, or whatever — I've noticed that there are often life-circumstances that precipitate learning to knit or crochet. And when it turns out that you don't pick up this "easy" thing that everyone on earth seems to be able to do in five minutes, or that you're all thumbs, or that you are the worst in the whole class (and with knitting I definitely was), you can get kind of double stressed-out, because you're really not in the mood to add more challenges to your life, or feel incompetent, or hear about how much fun everyone else is having with it.

So I always try to encourage people to not worry. To slow down, look at the directions again, keep trying. It takes practice. No matter how naturally it comes, it takes practice before you develop any kind of muscle-memory. And at some point there will be a "moment" where you "get" it — much like riding a bike. For quite a while you will be stuck in the technical stuff — balancing, pedaling, turning, moving uncomfortably through the motions, possibly wiping out, stopping to fetch a Band-Aid. But then there will be that small, smooth, bright moment when you are not conscious of every movement and the wheels are still turning, and you're moving forward, down the block, toward the park. There's the park! You're thinking about the park, and still vertical. . . . Aw, you've got it now.

The benefits — well, the benefits of dinking around with a ball of yarn are extraordinary. One of the best cures in the world. Worth every scraped knee, don't you think?

February 28, 2007

Ripple Finale

Finishedripple3 Ta-DA! I made a ripple blanket and a cat to go with it! Phew. That was hard work!

Finishedripple2 Please be impressed, because clearly the cat is not. As long as there is "some kind of wool" on the bed she will sit on it for hours and hours, and still look at you like she'd prefer a fireplace, and a view of the mountains, if you would. To block this thing, I just spread it out flat and sprayed it with a water bottle, which was kind of fun at first and then my arm got tired, so I don't know how much good it did (because I didn't get all that much water on it after all, I don't think). The light was so dim yesterday, these were the best photos I could get, too. But you get the idea, at least.

Finishedripple1I wound up doing two dc rows of a charcoal-gray border around the whole thing because the edges were pretty wobbly, and the border worked out well and kind of sucked the whole beast together. My gauge changed significantly by the end of it all; things were much looser at the end. Which makes sense, I guess. When you start, you're all like, "Oh, isn't this precious. Me and my big basket of yarn, and a hot chai, and some beautiful snow, just crocheting contentedly away. Double crochet. Double crochet [flourish]. Why, is that a cardinal? How lovely! [Sip.]"

But let me tell you, 197 rows later, you feel like you're on the ripple assembly line in the ripple sweatshop at the end of a 12-hour ripple swing-shift with carpal tunnel and a dirty shirt, going dcdcdc2dc2dcdcdcdcdc2togdc2togdcdcdcAGHHHHH!!! Make it stop!!! Yeaaaah. I was ready to be done. I ran out of charcoal-border yarn with about fifty stitches to go, too. And I think I'm just going to stick a lighter gray on there. I really don't think I can drag myself back to the store for this again.

But I'm very happy with it! A good night's sleep under it last night wiped out all traces of angst and I'm left just feeling that it's really cool — my first crocheted blanket! It's my favorite thing I've ever made. I started snowily here, went slightly mental here, pulled out the hide-a-bed here, and now I'm done. We had fun, didn't we?

Now, if you are toying with this idea, firstly, you should toy no longer and find your hooks or get out that how-to-crochet book or find your grandma to teach you immediately. Because the girls over at the No-End-in-Sight Ripple-Along have already started and they won't be able to wait too long for you, because I'm telling you, once these things get going, there is just no stopping! Dawn and Kim created this crochet-along for everyone who is making a ripple blankie and it is awesome to see how everyone interprets this project. And the Vintage Stripe Blanket group on Flickr is a beautiful collection of all the striping going on out there. Soooooo fun and pretty. Do it, seriously. You'll love it.

People mentioned in the comments yesterday that there is a lot of granny-squaring going on out there, too. I didn't have time to follow any of the links but if anyone starts a Flickr group for that or a granny-square-'ghan-along, will someone tell me? I want to join. I made four squares yesterday and, though, not as easy as the rippling, squaring has its own charming appeal. I'm on board.

When Violet and I came out the guest room, the Bee was sitting in the hallway on her thrifted crocheted tuffet. One gets Baby Cashmerino, one gets thrifted Red Heart. That's how it is around here. The next one's just for you, baby Bee. (That's what I tell them, jokingly. And then, of course, when they take over my stuff, the joke's [of course] on me. The four-thousand-dollar cat blanket. Yep.)

Finishedripple7

February 27, 2007

And now for my next trick . . .

Grannysquare1

A granny-square afghan, similar to this one, from one of my favorite designer's homes. This is a photo of a bedroom in Petra Boase's house in Norfolk, England. It's from one of my favorite books, Flea Market Style, by Emily Chalmers, though I first saw a different photo of this afghan a year ago in another book called New Country Style England, where it was featured in the context of her so so so very adorable home. Very few photos of things stick to my very-bad memory, but this one has. I figured it was better to test out whether I really liked it or not with a picture that I looked at for a year before I jumped into making the real thing.

What I love about this afghan is how big the squares themselves are — they're about eight or nine rows around and that appeals to me both aesthetically and practically, since I've been avoiding the whole granny-square thing mostly because I don't want to stitch four zillion twirpy squares all together. But I have to tell you that the whole ripple-blanket thing really bolstered my confidence that I could complete a big project like that. I honestly didn't think I could, but, turns out, I can. I'm going to block the ripple 'ghan today and show you a photo of the finished thing tomorrow.

Grannysquare3 Obviously, the granny-square 'ghan is a true stash blanket, because you need so very little yarn to make, say, the first round of a square. So you really can literally bust the stash completely, and that's satisfying. I still have stash left over after all the rippling. Like I said, I had some serious stash to start with. How many times can I say stash. Nevertheless, the cream part of this GS 'ghan will take a hefty supply all its own; I believe mine will be mint green. I have about ten skeins of mint green (don't ask). If that looks gross I'll have to rethink it, but it might be cool. I like the way the squares look varied in size, too, simply by adding a few rounds of the background color before the square is officially "done." Breaks it up a bit.

You can find free patterns for all kinds of granny squares all over the Internet, of course. I kind of like the classic, like these, so I'm going to use a version of Erika Knight's "Modern Afghan" squares from Simple Crochet. Just with a few more rounds.

February 26, 2007

Butterscotch Sunday

Icecream1_1 Icecream3

We have some serious ice cream lovers in our family, mostly among the underage set. Getting a restaurant sundae, no matter how humble, is very exciting.

The little sundae glasses reminded me that I have a set of sundae glasses myself. I spent a lazy Sunday watching documentaries about the royal family, finishing my ripple blanket, making butterscotch pudding from scratch, and really enjoying the Academy Awards with my little sister, who was visiting this weekend. I thought Ellen did a great job, and those dancers that rolled into different shapes for each movie — how cool was that. That was my favorite part of the whole thing.

Butterscotch3

Making pudding is pretty easy. I saw this recipe in the newspaper last week and thought it sounded interesting.

Pudding3

With brown sugar and browned butter, it was very nutty and intense. I did my little mise en place thing and that was nice. It works out well on a lazy Sunday, I think.

022507_paltrow_200x400

And the butterscotch pudding reminded me of Gwyneth Paltrow's dress, which I thought was really pretty, too. I always love that part in The Royal Tenenbaums when she orders the butterscotch sundae. It seems so unlikely, but then so right, somehow.

February 23, 2007

Vanessa Bell Smock

Shirt2 First, I needed the right shirt to wear while sewing. This is a rough draft. It looks a bit maternity. But I was going for Bloomsbury Artist at Charleston, in fact. Like this, but not for $68. I just took a t-shirt and cut off the front part below some random line I drew. Then I hemmed a piece of knit fabric an inch longer than the piece I cut off (to account for the hem and the seam allowances), then gathered it across the top, and attached it. I cut that front piece inside the seams (and kept the original side seams) and then just attached my new piece up the side. I think it's kinda cute, and it was easy.

If I do it again, I'll cut it so the yoke is much higher. As it was I was trying to go under the sleeves. But I think it would look better if the yoke was shorter (higher), and I cut some room for the bottom half of the armhole out of my new fabric. (Or maybe if the gathers stayed more toward the center than the sides.) I think I would keep the whole sleeve intact and just top-stitch my new fabric around the armhole, so all the original t-shirt seam is there. If that makes no sense, just ignore me. I can see it, I just can't write it. Hopefully I can sew it. Then I'll just show it.

Thank you for all the embroidery-transfer talk yesterday. Here are some comments with further ideas you might want to know about (hope you guys don't mind that I pulled these up):

I have a good tip for a makeshift lightbox if people don't have one. It's much less expensive and works pretty well. Just take one of those florescent light strips that plug in (you can get them at Lowe's or Home Depot or where ever) and upturn a clear, shallow plastic tote over it. Put your items to be traced on top and voila! Lightbox!

And you forgot to mention my type of light box. Everyone has one, so it's free! I tape my pattern to a window on a sunny day, then gently tape my fabric to the window on top of that. I'm not much of one for fancy gadgets, so I just use a simple very sharp No. 2 pencil and trace the pattern. Works perfectly every time and doesn't cost me a cent — well, maybe a little time to wipe the smudges off the window when I'm done!

I hate, hate, hate transferring an embroidery pattern! Something I do that I find SO HELPFUL is to iron on some freezer paper (shiny side down) to the back of your fabric for stability. Then I tape (with blue painters tape) the pattern to the freezer paper. It makes tracing SO much easier. I also use a brown Micron pen (the finest point) to draw with. I've run into some disappearing pens that didn't disappear. Plus they draw "fat". I have a friend who swears by Jelly Rolls pens for the tracing. I'm going to try it the next time I transfer a pattern.

My marker is white with pink caps, and it says "Disappearing Ink" on one side and "Mark-B-Gone" on the other side — one side disappears with time (supposedly) and one disappears after washing (supposedly). I don't know who makes it, but it's probably Dritz. But I like that idea of the Micron pen. Gotta get one of those. Thanks, you guys. Those are great suggestions.

Also, Auds has been walking around here with a (regular) pencil and a tiny clipboard, getting my family and friends to sign some little "petition." I don't know what it says because she's not speaking to me, but I'm guessing it has to do with being replaced by a jelly roll. I think she snuck in and read yesterday's comments when I was at the store and felt she had a good shot at staging a protest. I think I'll have to give that good girl her own category when I redo all these. Bloglines peeps, I'm just warning you — that day is coming soon. I can't find anything around here myself. And this dog, she's very persuasive (as you know).

February 22, 2007

Tiny Pastries Made of Thread

Embroidery1_1 I have a love/ugh relationship with embroidery. I love doing it, I ugh transferring the pattern. Ugh ugh ugh.

I've been embroidering since I was a little girl. My mom used to do enormous (like two by three feet) crewel embroidery kits and get them framed at Lee Wards (remember that place?) and, as with so much that she used to do, there was no fuss about it, and she did several, though I can tell you that if I were doing half of what she did I would've sent out a press release to the whole neighborhood and gotten one of those bullhorn things and announced it from the front porch to every single person walking by. "I. AM. EMBROIDERING. SOMETHING. PEOPLE." That's what I'm doing here, really.

But that is all just to say that needles, wool, and floss were around and no biggie. I seem to be the only sib that picked it up and did it regularly, as a matter of course. I always had a pillowcase going somewhere, even in college: I'd sit at the bar in my vintage dress and Doc Marten boots, drinking a beer and . . . embroidering a pillowcase (of course). My favorites were vintage pillowcases already stamped, but they were hard to find; you could buy them new and already stamped at the craft store, but the quality of the fabric was always crappy. The obvious alternative is buying nice pillowcases and transferring the design yourself, but that's never been my favorite part of embroidery.

Lightbox2 There are several ways to transfer designs, of course. You can buy iron-ons. You can make your own by getting an embroidery transfer pencil and tracing designs backwards onto tracing paper then ironing them on. You can use dressmaker's carbons under the pattern and trace them with a pencil. Or you can use a lightbox with a wash-out fabric marker, which is my preferred way. (There are probably a few other ways of doing it that I don't even know about of course.)

I like the lightbox way. But then again, I actually have a lightbox, so that's helpful. Mine's kind of like this one, and I got it quite a while ago when embroidered stuff was part of the Posie product line (er, no more). I don't use it very often anymore but it does come in handy and is nice to have around, when the need arises.

Embroidery2 This is a little dish towel I'm doing for my friend Linda's birthday. She's a lawyer who dreams of being a baker. These little pastries are probably an inch and a half big. I did four of them in one afternoon/evening. Still have to do the pie. I like the Japanese-craft-book embroideries because they have this straightforwardly sweet, naive kind of quality, but they don't iron-on. I also bought some Stitchettes from Hillary but I haven't done those yet. She kindly made the iron-ons for us, so that transfer operation will be painless. Just gotta figure out what I want to put them on. So cute. And Jenny's stuff is always super cool. I always give her little La Petite embroidery kits as gifts to people who haven't embroidered before but have expressed interest. They have everything you need to get going (except for the fabric, but she even sells blank stuff like bibs and tea towels now, too).

Embroidery3 Anyway, it's really fun. I'm almost done with my ripple blanket (soooooo ready to be done with the ripple blanket, I have to say) and though I have plans to start a new granny-square one, I think I'm going to do some more tea towels for some birthdays coming up. I think those make cute presents, maybe with some sugar roses or a bottle of sprinkles for cupcakes. Wouldn't that be a cute little prezzie for a girlfriend?

Dogandpillow2 I woke Audrey up again to show her the new blog banner that was replacing her.

Dogandpillow1 I think she felt kinda bad.

February 15, 2007

Stack of Hearts and Clouds

Vcake Making good on my promise to try the mini-layer stack again, I went with chocolate, pastry cream, strawberries, and Mom's frosting. Angorian suggested that room temperature eggs might have been the key to success and non-sinking cakes, so I warmed mine up in a bowl of warm water, since I never plan far enough ahead to take things out of the fridge. To bring butter to room temp, I stick it in the microwave (on a plate) and nuke it for one minute at power level 1 and it seems to do the trick.

Vcake3 I had a few recipes in my recipe box. The provenance of the Dutch Chocolate Cake was sketchy, which proved to be a problem when I got to that last ingredient: "1/2 c. _________ ." Added alternately with flour mixture. Whoopsie. I decided it was sour cream, but that was just a guess.

Dutch Chocolate Cake

1 c. hot water, almost boiling
1/4 c. cocoa
1 c. softened butter
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. sour cream

Stir together hot water and cocoa and set aside. Cream butter and sugars together, then add eggs, one at a time. Add cocoa water and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, then add alternately with sour cream, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Bake at 300 degrees F for 12 minutes.

Vcake4 When you put the cocoa water in the butter-sugar mixture, something very . . . pebbly . . . happens. I did panic. This had the consistency of something you might throw up. All the butter turns into tiny nuggets, and you think it's lost. It really looks bad and gross.

Vcake5 But add the flour stuff and it all works out. PHEW. I was pretty much amazed, I must say. It turned into regular chocolate cake batter. Must have something to do with mixing water into solid-ish butter, it all kind of seizes up and freaks out.

Vcake7 Again with the mini pans. This batter fills up only ten of them instead of twelve. I'll have recipes for you when I get back but I'm rushing out the door here in a minute so this'll be the short version but come back later or tomorrow for the details. Nigella, I love your little blue measuring cups. I didn't think I would, but I do.

Vcake8 Took these out after about twelve minutes when the toothpick came out clean. Cut the top off this one and found a molten core. But it turned out it was the only one like this, so it must have been in a weird place in the oven. I live in fear of burning cakes, so I always try to take them out a minute early. But not this early.

Vcake9 Pastry cream: yum. Lots of recipes out there for this; mine is just basic. Then a run out to Safeway for strawberries. Got the third-to-last container of strawberries left at Safeway (it was 7 p.m. by this time) and they were really awful — not ripe, and bruised. So I salvaged what I could and sliced them really thin. Everyone on earth was buying strawberries and roses yesterday.

Vcake11 Whipped up some of Mom's frosting — light as a cloud. I'm going to call it "Cloudburst Frosting" instead of what we usually call it, "frosting with the milk and the flour stuff." I love this frosting so much.

Cloudburst Frosting

4 T. flour
1 c. whole milk
1 c. butter
1 t. almond
2 c. sifted confectioners sugar

In small pan, whisk together flour and milk. Simmer until thick over low heat. Remove from heat and let cool completely in refrigerator. Cream together butter and almond; add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add flour mixture and beat until fluffy. The frosting will appear to separate, but just keep beating on high until it whips up into smooth, fluffy clouds.

I have to say, the frosting is a bit temperamental — but it tastes sooooo good. It was really light, in a weird way. I mean, relatively speaking. I think it was much better than the vanilla-raspberry buttercream cakes I made last week.

Vcake10 I tinted the frosting a little bit pink, and then just did the blobs with the star tip.

Vcake12 Andy made Ina's Chicken with Morels and I dinked around with these cakes and got in his way. It was sooooo late by the time we finally got to the eatin'. I pretty much massacred this one. You have to cut little slices with a steak knife, or risk smooshing the whole thing. Dang, that cake was good. Took me 47 hours to make it, but it was good.

February 14, 2007

Cat and Mus

Bridget2_1 If you are feeling a little lonely this Valentine's Day . . .

Bridget1 I wish you a furry little friend, and lots and lots of love from all the critters here at Paulson Place. Even Bridget. She loves you, too. In her way. The sketchy, slighty nervous-making way, but still, it's a way.

February 13, 2007

Ripple Issues

Blanket2_1 The ripple blanket grows and grows. Rows by rows. It got a little fugly in the middle — lots of random, insipid pastels — but then some raisin brown and deep charcoal showed up on the list and saved things. I was holding my breath there for a minute, thinking I'd wrecked to whole thing. But I soldiered on and was rewarded.

The depths to which I am able to both appreciate and indulge myself while making this blanket are beyond the pale.

For instance, the hide-a-bed. I pulled it out, in the living room; right in the middle of Saturday afternoon my ripple blanket and I got on it. Andy walked in (as well as he could, as the pulled-out hide-a-bed takes up almost the whole room) after walking the dog and actually looked amazed, as if he were some sort of amateur and not a 73-time gold-medal winner in the Crazy-Alicia Olympics. Honestly. I remained resolute in my obliviousness. He snorted: "Is this what you're doing now?" I said, "Yeah. I think so," as if still considering, sitting in the middle of the bed, happily holding the clicker and patting down the covers around me. I find the best way of dealing with scoffing or apparent sarcasm is to pretend you aren't getting it, somehow, and act even more . . . forward. I flapped my hand toward the foot of the bed. "Honey, can you move your wrapping paper off my bed here? It's touching my leg and bugging me" [wink]. He sat wrapping a birthday present on an ottoman, trying to ignore me. I was all like, "Oh crap, now where am I going to put my pop," because, you know, when you're sitting in a double bed in the middle of the living room there aren't many flat, hard surfaces within reach. "Wow. I don't know. You've got problems," said he. "I know, it sucks!" I said, "I'll have to hold it!" and on and on with this nonsense for hours and rows. At 9 or 10 p.m. I stood up, folded my ripple blanket, stretched exhaustedly and said, "Welp! Time to go to bed!" and headed upstairs. To the regular bed. Wow is right. Make that 74-time winner.

Blanket5The thing is, though, that if you are trying to figure out if your chart is right, or if you need to add a different color to the whole, a ripple blanket that is three weeks on is BIG and difficult to see in its entirety. But it fits a hide-a-bed perfectly. And then you can bring your computer, all your yarn, snacks, cats, magazines, a whole lot of stuff. Don't knock it til you try it baby. I'm telling you.

By the way, as noted by Jane, who I blame completely for getting me into this ripple fugue, the blanket is based on the Soft Waves pattern in Jan Eaton's book 200 Ripple Stitches. I used mostly Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and other nice DK-weight yarns, but I don't know which brands, which colors, or exactly how much (a lot), as many people have written and asked. It really doesn't matter. It's truly a stash blanket, so I frogged a bunch of old prototypes for old things, threw in half an unfinished dog sweater, used whatever else was in the bucket, and bought a few skeins that I knew would help all that pastel. Don't worry about it too much. Just go with your instincts, stack them all up, and they'll look just fine, I promise. This is all double crochet, over and over and over again, so if you can do that, you can make it. Just pull out the hide-a-bed, ignore the laundry, groceries, and your family, and get going.

Ohmigosh, look, she's even doing it again. I totally understand.

February 10, 2007

Little Layers

Cakes12 Four little cakes all in a row. I thought they looked so cute all lined up! My little vanilla-raspberry huts.

Batter1 Friday afternoon, and I had the house all to myself. When Andy's home, there is always music on. But sometimes when I bake or cook I like to have it completely quiet. There's just the whirring of the mixer, the slip-slop sound of the eggs going in, the birds beyond the storm windows, singing because it was as warm as spring outside. Friday afternoon alone, in the clean, quiet house, waiting for people to come over is pretty nice, I have to say.

Batter2_1 I got out my huge new toolbox of cake decorating supplies, but I wound up doing much the same kind of cake I always do: yellow, with buttercream frosting. Not very exciting, of course, but still, a classic. I am a vanilla person, vanilla and almond. It was the first time I used the mini cake-pans and I love them. I used the Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake recipe from A Piece of Cake by Susan G. Purdy, which is, essentially (with some baking powder and salt and vanilla thrown in), 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs. It makes a thick, delicious batter, enough to fill my twelve little tins.

Cakes1The recipe called for baking two 8-inch rounds for 35 minutes; I pulled these out at exactly 20 and they were perfect. In fact, I think these are the first cakes of my whole life that did not sink in the middle, at all. Go figure. Still not sure what causes that for me, since it turns out that my oven is a little under temperature when tested, but I might stick with this recipe (or this book) from now on. I didn't grease or flour these pans, either; I wanted their sides to be perfectly golden because I intended to do an unfrosted-sided stack, like this cake from Miette I mentioned a while ago. And anyway, what good is Teflon if you still have to grease and flour everything?

Cakes2 Out they popped, just fine. I sliced off the tops of half of them (something I find oddly satisfying). One "accidentally" got "wrecked" so I "had" to eat it. Then found some seedless black-raspberry jam in the fridge to spread on the inside. In retrospect, I think next time I'll slice even these layers in two, and make each cake a stack of four layers. I think that would look more elegant. But anyway, onto the jam.

Cakes4_1 Jam, you're good. I like you. You're not too sweet, and a pretty color.

Cakes14 I spread a layer of jam on the bottom half of each, then piped my usual spiral on top. Capped it with the topper, then piped another spiral. In the kit from Mom was a jar of gorgeous vanilla-bean paste from Nielsen-Massey, so I added a big blob of that, for those lovely little black bits throughout. I really hate frosting the sides of cakes. Probably because I stink at it. Time to learn that. Then onto their plates for a dusting of powdered sugar and a sugar posie.

Cakes7 Aw! A cream puff! For you, Ivonne.

These were fun, and super easy. I think next time I'll do dark chocolate cake, with pastry cream between the layers, split four-ways instead of two-, and with this frosting that my mom always made with cooked milk and flour as a base. Need to get that recipe from her. It makes a lighter, less-sweet frosting. And I'll crack out the fancier supplies and learn how to pipe a real rose.

Cakes15 Ding-dong! WOOF WOOF WOOF! Made it, just in time.

January 25, 2007

Ripple Effects

William11_1 Ripples. You'd think there wouldn't be much to blog about when one has done not much the past two weeks other than stack ripples up like years, but oh, you know I'll find a way. I was running late yesterday but took a few shots of the half-done ever-growing ripple blanket in action. I seriously think this is my all-time favorite thing I've made so far. I take it with me from room to room around the house, adding a few ripples wherever I go. I can hardly believe I'm saying that because of my little problem with putting things down half-finished. But no. Still going strong on this one.

William10This little puppers is William, a hound I bought from Kristina and gave to Andy for Christmas. I love the things Kristina makes — they always have such personality. Every once in a while when I'm having a bad day and I need a giggle, I think of that pig she made a million years ago whose head exploded? Oh god, just thinking about it makes me laugh — go look at it, seriously. And the way Kristina writes about her just CRACKS me up. This is one of my all-time favorite blog entries anywhere, and definitely one of my all-time favorite most-adorable pigs. But William is ours (er, Andy's) and we love him.

William12 This morning Andy said, "How come you didn't call that guy about the tool-and-die magazine job, anyway?" Many other people asked me this question in the comments the other day and all I can say is: Peeps, did you hear the part about it being a tool-and-die magazine? What even ARE tools and dies? I didn't call because I was horrified, and, worse, suspected the handwriting analysis was probably completely right. Now, in retrospect, I guess I can safely say, "Well obviously it would've been good experience, etc." But at the time I just saw myself wearing a hardhat, carrying a notebook around a factory in Berwyn, Illinois, eating a Lean Cuisine in a windowless lunchroom forever. At 24, I wanted to move to the mountains of western Montana with my boyfriend, and write short stories, and ride the vintage bicycle he gave me to the farmer's market to buy lupine and sunflowers, and get a kitten. I just didn't quite know it until the tool-and-die guy was handing me his card, when I saw my whole life flash before my eyes. So, we hit the road, and here we are. I'm not saying the things I do make any sense, but that's rarely stopped me.

William8 They say, when decorating, to, you know, just "use things that you love" and it'll all go together, etc. I was just looking at the colors in the blanket and the room and watching them show up here and there, a little bit here, a little bit there. I'm always trying to get the blue right, but the other colors do seem to . . . keep showing up. Which, I mean — maybe everyone's stash is like that? Is that how it just naturally works? That the stash blanket becomes the blanket that goes with everything, by virtue of its being made of everything?

William6 I was slightly surprised that even Andy didn't get why I didn't call the tool-and-die guy, but maybe he just wanted to hear me explain it. He and I are pretty much naturally simpatico on just about everything, except when it comes to interpretations of our long-shared past where we have great conversations that go like this:

"College was totally [insert adjective here]."
"No it wasn't."
"Yes it was."
"No it wasn't."
"Yes, it was!"
"No."
"Yes."
" . . . "
"YES IT WAS!!!!"

Or:

"She was always doing that."
"No she wasn't."
"Yes she was."
"No she wasn't."
"ARE YOU INSANE YES SHE WAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
" . . . "

You can see I always win these. I mean, it is the person who shouts the loudest and calls the other person "psycho" enough who wins, right?

Yes it is.

William7 I forgive him, I really do, for being wrong about so many of our common memories, where we were apparently in the same place, at the same time, with the same people, but, also, apparently, on different planets. Occasionally it does occur to me that it is only I who am on another planet. The Planet of Small Cute Chairs and Cakes.

Soon to officially replace Pluto, if things go according to my plan.

January 24, 2007

Little Sisters

Please come in and meet my girls.

Gretelabigail3 This is Gretel-Abigail. She's the oldest, and as such tends to be the most inclined to set a good example. She plans to go to med school to study epidemiology. She's also a bit of a worrier. Which makes sense.

Gretelabigail1 But who wouldn't be.

Gretelabigail2 It's a chicken-or-an-egg thing.

Simoneelle1This is her sister, Simone-Elle. She is actually adopted, from the Alsace region of France. Which explains her weakness for flammekueche.

Simoneandmarjorie Being the middle child, though, she knows how to share.

Marjorie-Bea has now developed the taste for bacon and onions. And, of course, a good Riesling. But mostly she likes to build pinatas. She has made, to date, over fourteen-thousand.

You wouldn't think it, to look at her, would you.

Marjoriebea1 But it's totally true. She's the foremost pinata-maker in the world.

January 19, 2007

I'm All Moo-y

Moo2 Did you order your Moo cards yet? I first saw them over at Yvonne's (and oh man, look at her super-cute pink pantry-place — if there's anyone's house I wish I could see in real life, it's yours Yvonne — you are truly, truly gifted). Anyway, she posted about these last month but I was just catching up on stuff recently and zoomed over to Flickr to make a whole bunch. These are teeny weeny little cards (28 by 70 mm) that you can crop from your 72 dpi Flickr images, printing up to a 100 different slivers, with type on the back. For $19.99. Are you kidding me? They're super. I love them so much. I'm actually so excited about them I'm paralyzed — I have no idea what I'll use them for. I haven't seen my images on actual paper before. I mean, nobody does, anymore, right?

I'm not the greatest Flickr participant. If I get photos I like, I just plop them here on the blog, and then occasionally, six months later I'll upload a bunch to Flickr. Other people seem to be much more agile in their Flickr usage. Now that Moo cards have been invented, I'm rethinking this, and plan to upload more regularly. There is something really interesting about the way these bitties provide a literal "slice" of life. I feel like I just got glimpses of our whole entire year in one teeny tiny little box. Kiss kiss, Moo-cow. Thank you. I love you very, very much.

January 17, 2007

Blizzard Blanket

Tram Andy took this photo yesterday as he rode the tram from Pill Hill down to the river and back with his friends. I think I would've liked to have done that, see the city covered in snow from high above. Instead I had a local view: my ever-whitening yard, the feeding frenzy at the bird feeder outside the kitchen window, and my blizzard blanket.

We had an unexpected overnight houseguest, which was such a treat, another Pill-Hill colleague stranded by snow here in town. Late last night the three of us and Audrey took a glorious walk through the quiet, snow-covered neighborhood, rosy under the weird snowish night sky. There is a slight incline that runs for about nine blocks up one street of our neighborhood, and there were old-school sledders, head-first on those Rosebud-type sleds, making the long nighttime run at the perfect speed: not too fast, not too slow. Cross-country skiers, other walkers, all of us out at 10 p.m., soaking up every drop of the day. When it snows, I feel real. I feel like I'm part of the year, part of the world. I really, really love it. But then again, I have the luxury of sitting home and working on my blanket with a snowpup at my feet and a cup of chai at hand, so who wouldn't love it, then.

The thing is, I'm actually caught up. I'm never caught up, but lately, I have been. Things slowed down and I was, concurrently, able to maintain enough of my speedy inertia to zip it all up at the same time that it slowed down. And here I am, doing a jig called Freedom. So I jigged over to my yarn stash over the weekend and cleaned it up.

Blanket11I keep my yarn separated in little plastic boxes with cedar blocks. I label them (Worsted Felting Wools, Worsted Cottons, Fancy Cottons, Novelties, DK Cashmerino/Baby, Tweed Wools and Sock Yarns, Other Stuff). I usually keep them all separated like this but over the year they get all messed up so every once in a while I go through them and figure it out again. You may remember my brilliant (ahem) idea to crochet a patchwork blanket last spring. I haven't worked on it at all since then. I think I have six or seven squares. Somewhere around the sixth square I remember feeling strongly that I was dreading sewing it all together, but I was too far in to turn back. After I cleaned up the yarn, I thought, "Okay, now the reward: Crochet. Where's that blanket." I looked everywhere for the blanket. I couldn't find the blanket. I seem to have a special Alicia-gift for losing those. Do not ever ask me to "watch" your blanket for you because I will immediately lose it. It's unbelievable. I started to get all hot and bothered. I looked everywhere I thought it could be. I couldn't find it. The day was unraveling. Then I remembered Jane's blanket, the one I really wanted. (Please note: For those looking for the pattern for this blanket, please see the source for it that Jane has referenced.) Perhaps I had "lost" the other one on purpose? . . . Nooooo. Yes? Let's move on.

Blanket9 I took the entire box of Baby Cashmerino and other yarns of roughly the same weight and cut little pieces of them and taped them to my notebook so I could see what colors I had. I had a lot. If anyone is in need of a serious stash-busting project, it's me. But I knew it would have to get worse before it got better: I headed out the the LYS and picked up a few more colors I thought would help. I was going for something not-too insipid, something with a bit of clash (you know, to honor the long and illustrious history of clashing colors in ripple-crochet afghans, now all pilled, scuzzy, and strangely appealing [color-wise] at Goodwill now), and something that would go in the living room (green/gray/pink) and the bedroom (aqua/red).

Blanket7 Kinda like this quilt, which is a vintage quilt I bought years ago and is my current couch-sitting quilt but also winds up in every other room in the house quite comfortably, color-wise. It has some funky patches of, like, red-and-green plaid, kelly green, brown: not what you'd expect, but it all works. When I had all the yarns I wanted, I combined shades that were similar and called them the same "color," then popped it all into the Random Stripe Generator and hit the refresh button about a hundred times until I got this, which seemed just fine:

Blanket2Then I crocheted a few ripples and proceeded to write lengthy emails to Jane first appealing for her forgiveness for totally ripping her off, then discussing the amazing phenomenon of how the blanket changed before my eyes with each added stripe.

Blanket8She knew all about that phenomenon, of course, because Jane and Color are well-acquainted, old friends, confident in each other's talents, familiar with their respective ability to surprise and delight. I'm not so confident or well-acquainted. And when I make things for myself, I almost always use a pattern, or I do, like, super-random, which has the maddening habit of not actually being super-random, but rather sort of . . . unspontaneous and calculated . . . when I do it. But sometimes I don't like to think. I just like to do. I find it a huge relief, to just go go go and not think or worry, just trust.

Blanket4Can you see how the stripes are following the chart? The pattern of stitches is interesting enough to be motivating and not too challenging, but the real motivation comes in seeing how each stripe changes the whole. Even though I've got the chart, there is enough variation in how the colors are different from their paper representations as to be very motivating. At least to me. I find these things enormously exciting. That is why some people find me unbelievably nerdy. I mostly find myself unbelievably nerdy. But I do love it so. All day I sat and watched the snow, and added color after color after color, impatiently waiting to see what would happen next.

Jane told me, interestingly I think, that the ripples work on the colors quite differently than straight stripes do. That hadn't occurred to me at all, but I think she's so right. They really are sort of groovin'. Aside from the super-bonus of not having to stitch anything together, or weave in any ends (I just crochet right over the tails left over from every color change), I love the sort of old-fashionedness of this stitch pattern combined with (what I like to think is) a sassily modern color-combo and nice yarn. (I would recommend making this a true "stash" blanket if you do it, because I'm afraid the cost of buying all the yarn at once would send me right back out the door into the cold — I made this a bit over 60 inches wide which is . . . really wide, and at this width it takes about 125 yards to get just over TWO stripes.) But I haven't been this obsessed with a project in a long time. Since our snow and my car don't look like they're going anywhere for a while, it seems that I might be lucky enough to have another day of blissed-out ripple-making once again. It's like doing a little jig while seated comfortably on the couch.

Blanket12

January 09, 2007

A Cupcake for You

Cupcake1If I could've, I would've shared my cupcakes with you in real life. Thank you for all of your kindness about my birthday. There really was something magical about the day, probably the best day I've had in years, though I never, ever expected it to be. All of your wishes were part of that, little sprinkles of fairy-dust that trailed me through the forest, a cloud of hopes and glints and flickers. Thank you. I felt and was kept warm by them all.

Also, I forgot to mention that something really weird happened to me on Sunday, too. I think I actually became an Oregonian. I don't really know how to explain it, or exactly why it happened, but I felt it, and I'd really never felt it so . . . certainly . . . before. I'd been waiting and waiting. I can't believe it.

My coconut cupcakes were a variation of my favorite Kid-Simple Cupcakes from the book Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans. I added about two teaspoons of coconut extract and cut the vanilla back to one teaspoon. The buttercream frosting is also in the book, but I added about a teaspoon of the coconut extract to it and some almond extract, as well, then just piped it in a spiral and sprinkled some toasted coconut on top. I personally don't like shredded, untoasted coconut. I love the flavor, but I don't like the texture; it always reminds me of what it must be like to eat, like, upholstery stuffing. Like the inside of the couch or something. I'm sure that's just me, but it's just not my favorite texture.

So, Andy went back to work today, and it feels, for us anyway, like the first real day of the new year. As a final treat for me yesterday, I asked if he would come with me to get my car washed very, very well, so we did that, did the whole vacuum everything–de-dustify–wash-and-wax. I keep my house pretty clean but I don't keep my car that clean, so this was awesome. I recommend this if you're feeling that you're in need of a little bit of a fresh start, but the idea of, like, re-organizing your entire life makes you want to . . . reach for the remote. I'll be packing and shipping all the orders from last week today (as well as the international orders from the end of 2006 — and, by the way, I am officially adding flat fees to all overseas orders in 2007 — it's getting so expensive to ship overseas, especially to Australia — please note them on my FAQ page and accept my apologies) and I'm actually very excited to get in my nice clean car today and take them over to the P.O.

Also, Patricia posted an interview I did for her over at Crafty Synergy yesterday. Thank you for asking me, Patricia!

And thanks again for the birthday wishes, kind friends. [Smile smile twirl trip smile.]

January 04, 2007

In Hiding

Pho_collage_pink2_lg I'm in hiding in my room. Downstairs I can hear rattling pipes, and shouting between the plumber (in basement) and Andy (in kitchen): "Am I in the right place?" "A little to the left!" "There?" "A little to the right!" I'm twitching, about to put my head under the pillow. We have a leak somewhere between the kitchen and the basement. Lots of thumping down there. More hollered communications. They need walkie-talkies. Oh please, don't let this be expensive!!! Aggh! I think I'll stay up here until it's all over, and the check has been written.

We're not the only ones with plumbing problems. As you may have noticed, there is some trouble with the Kim Family Auction, and Lisa and Stephanie are in the process of sorting that out. As of last night, the auction was soaring off the charts of super-successfulness! I am absolutely agog (yes, agog) at how much money has been raised. Moly! If you were bidding, please stay tuned for whatever solution they hit upon; I'll keep you informed. I know they are scrambling to get things working again. Last I checked, Elodie-Anne herself was up to $375.00. I'm actually speechless over it. Thank you. (Update: Our illustrious lassies are working hard to get the auction happening again, but it looks like it will have to be started over. That just means more excitement! Please check the auction blog for further updates, as I do, I really do, intend to turn off this computer and go downstairs sometime today, and I might miss it, but I don't want you to, 'kay? Lisa's will make an announcement there when things are ready to go again, and she has more info there if you want the details.)

Did that collage look familiar? Remember all those movies I watched last week? I was only half-watching. Really, I was working on new collages that might remind you of my old collages. I was never sure if I was going to make these to sell, but I just had the major urge to do them last week, in thinking about everything, somehow. Of course, now having to pay for new pipes, I can't just give them anyway anymore, so they're all for sale over at the site now. But I really love them. Why is it so hard for me to part with things lately. It never used to be. I made a ton of them, but even so, I think this is a limited edition. You never know, with me. I've got some gorgeous materials, but I use them lavishly on my stuff, and then I'm out. I hear very loud drilling downstairs. It's actually rattling things in our room upstairs. I just heard the plumber yell, "ANDY!!!" That's not what you want to hear the plumber yell. Mommy?! I'm scared.

Pho_confection_rosemadelineLook at this luminous creature. Her name is Rose Madeline, and she's a Sugar Rose Pin. The poufiest, frothiest flowers I've ever made. Light as meringue. Speaking of light, the light in P-town yesterday was very dramatic. This photo sort of captured it. Dark gray clouds, light on the ground. Glory.

Pho_piro_salmon_lg_1Andy just brought up a big piece of rusted-out gunked-up pipe to show me, something the plumber apparently just cut out of the wall. The thing reeked. It looked about four-thousand years old. Oh. Dear. I'm on a need-to-know basis. I feel like having a Diane-Keaton-ish breakdown, that scene in Baby Boom when the well dries up? Where's a big puffy coat and a snowbank. I love that scene. When it's happening to her. Does a house this pretty seem like it should have a pipe like that in it? No, I don't think so either. Oh, but it does, my friends. I'm sure there are many, many other eighty-year-old gunky mysteries just waiting to be discovered. Yay. The longer I live in old houses the more I think my parents-in-law have the right idea. They built, brand-new, and you turn the fireplace on using a switch on the wall. My goodness. And I thought Duralogs were a miracle.

January 03, 2007

Green Curry, and at Least One Plan for 2007

Curry1 I'm a fan of curries. Thai green curry is my favorite. I tried to make it several times and was always disappointed until my little sister wrote this recipe for me. It's easy, and I'm sure you could substitute chicken for the shrimp, or leave either out and just do the veggies. (The stove, fluorescently lit, was the only thing I could get a photo of yesterday.)

Susie's Green-Curry Shrimp

1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 large shallot, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced (no ribbing please! — red parts only)
1 head broccoli florets
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced then cut into quarters
2 cans light coconut milk
1 T. green curry paste
1 c. frozen peas
1 small can bamboo shoots (julienned)

Saute shallot and onion in equal parts butter and oil (enough to coat bottom of your pan) until translucent. Add garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add about a teaspoon of salt and enough pepper so that you can see it freckling the onion-y stuff. Add broccoli florets and saute until almost tender. Add shrimp and eggplant and cook until shrimp turns pink. Add curry paste and stir until everything is coated, then add coconut milk and stir until combined. Don't boil, just simmer until shrimp are fully cooked (just a couple of minutes at most). Add peas and bamboo shoots and heat through. Serve over hot jasmine rice.

Curry2Susie gave me an enormous cookbook called Hot Sour Salty Sweet for Christmas. It's kind of like a coffee-table book more than something you'd want to splatter with curry sauce on the kitchen counter — I'm very intimidated by it. The authors have a complicated web site that my computer doesn't like very much, but the book is really beautiful. I aim to learn some things about Asian cooking this year. It's the type of cooking I just automatically assume I cannot do well. For Christmas I got Andy a first edition of The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook I mentioned last fall. We've made egg rolls, fried rice, and chicken with leeks and peanuts and I'll tell you, it was exciting. It totally worked. I couldn't believe it. It takes patience, and preparation. It's a good lesson for me, as I tend to rush through things most of the time. It takes some effort to make egg rolls from scratch, for instance. But the results were worth every little bowl I dirtied (and oh, there were many, many dirty little bowls, to hold all the little chopped up things, so many little bowls I actually ran out). It was sort of like Christmas: lots of preparation (fun), a lot of fun at the event itself, and then some serious clean-up, when you least feel like it. Oh well. That's life.

Anyhoo, where are we here. January 3? Time to start putting together a plan for 2007. Except that I don't plan. Except that I feel a serious need for one currently. Except that I personally find January rather challenging and overwhelming with all its expectations; I'm slow to sort out my "fresh start" stuff. However, I don't think it's too much to ask to do sit-ups every day, and it certainly is called for. I think I'll start with that.

The weather has been sooooo gloomy here I can't get a good photo of anything, but I've made a ton of new stuff I would show off if I could. Incessant movie-watching and an apparent inability to leave the property has resulted in a lot of crafting. But never mind. There are so many beautiful things to peruse at the Kim Family Benefit Art + Craft Auction, which started on Ebay today. I checked it out this morning and my heart just inflated with gratitude; there are so many bids on everything already I can't even believe it. Sob! Thank you to everyone who is out there supporting all of us artists as well as the Kim family, and an very heartfelt thank-you to Lisa and Stephanie and Gerrie, who have doubtless put in more hours on this than we'll ever know. Elodie-Anne and I are honored to be a part of it, and so grateful to those of you who have already bid, and those who, doubtless, will. Thank you. I do love this community so much.

Elodieanne1

January 02, 2007

Technicolors

Poufs1Petals of silk saturated with color. Nothing holds dye like silk, especially silk taffeta. It has an intensity that is luminous and reminds me of a big glass jar of water with a drop of dye just beginning to be swirled in — transparent color. Jell-O blooms. Beautiful.

And taffeta has its own sort of scrumptious, crunchable qualities. It crumples and gathers in my favorite way, it's cowlick-y, and full of highlights and shadows. I sat under various piles of blossoms yesterday, finishing various new things and old. Finishing old things is never as exciting as beginning new, but there is a certain understated satisfaction in having done so. And a freedom. Appropriate for the beginning of the new year, I think. Now if only the Christmas decor would kindly put itself away. I really don't feel like doing that.

Poufs2I'm beside myself with excitement over the possibility of seeing Miss Potter next weekend (I think it opens here January 12, but I'm not sure), brought to us by the inimitable Chris Noonan, the magician who kept Babe tinged with wonder and delight (and, speaking of luminescence, that color — I love the way color appears in that movie, those incandescent greens — well, I just love everything about that movie). It looks like Miss Potter will be every bit as magical, possibly moreso. I watched a short "making of" documentary this morning and . . . well . . . I'll just say I am very very very much looking forward to this movie!!!

I watched a lot of movies this past weekend, as Andy worked almost the whole time. I finally saw Elizabethtown, of which I knew absolutely nothing, and I have to say I loved it. Might be my new favorite movie. (People either loved or hated this movie. Don't read the reviews, though, and do try to forget that Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe had anything to do with it.) (Update: I like Cameron Crowe and his movies a lot, I just sort of liked this movie better when I thought it . . . came out of nowhere . . . and I was more forgiving of some of the plot hiccups. I forgive them anyway, of course, but you know what I mean — C.C.'s a pro now, etc., so there's a certain . . . expected veneer . . . but it's okay, really.) Coincidentally, only hours after I saw it, Garden State was on cable so I watched that again, too. (They have some similarities. GS seems . . . riskier . . . less polished [obviously] . . . love this movie . . . the kiss in the quarry . . . agh . . . love that.) I also just finished reading a book I really liked called Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper. I've been wanting to make a list of books that got turned into movies where I liked the movie better than the book, like Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. Love that movie. I was not surprised to see from Jonathan Tropper's web site that Everything Changes is in movie development with Tobey Maguire's production company. I kept picturing Tobey Maguire as the main character as I was reading. But anyway, ramble ramble. I also watched Big Fish, Bridget Jones's Diary (great new year's movie), Love Actually, and . . . Freaky Friday (new).

I guess I'm glad that it's back to business now. I'll be updating my site this week . . . and hopefully leaving the house, egads. Help.

December 31, 2006

Mus floristripibus

Mus3That's their genus and species. Commonly called "house mouse with stripes and flowers." It's a very unusual discovery. Right now there are only almost-five in existence. We expect at least seven or eight to be happening by the end of the afternoon. They do that.

Mus6 Weird, huh? We watched The Thin Man last night — oh, the dresses! Really fun movie. I'm still stuck on the dresses. The bias-cut black-and-white-striped chiffon with that ruffle coming down the back? Jeesh. Totally adorable. Almost made me want to get dressed. Almost.

Mus5Thanks for all the movie recommendations — Andy made a big list and got a bunch for tonight. Giant shrimp are chilling in the fridge. I'm happily ensconced here with my hook and my wool and no plans to do anything, other than possibly get up and make a chocolate milkshake in my new blender. Psych. Happy new year everybody!

December 28, 2006

Quiet Stitches

Elodieanne2 Greetings from the quiet corner, where I'm peacefully braiding braids and sewing seams by hand. It's slow, quiet work, well-suited to the end of December, where it seems Christmas has gone as fast as it came, though a glittered quiet still lingers in its wake. Little shreds of wrapping paper pepper the place like snow and the leftover Christmas cookies look blurry and forlorn, but we haven't cleaned up yet, and neither do we plan to. I'm popping my head out from my flannel-y lair briefly to show you Elodie-Anne, the doll I finished yesterday for the Kim Family Benefit Art + Craft Auction. I just wanted to remind you to dust off your Ebay usernames and passwords (I hardly ever use mine so I always forget them) for this very good cause. Bidding starts on January 3. The items up for auction are all beautiful and amazing, which seems entirely appropriate for the Kims.

I'll be back soon, though not just yet. . . . My brain's barely working, and that seems just . . . grand. Hope you're blissed out on eggnog and new toys, and feeling much the same.

December 22, 2006

* Sugarplum Days *

Clara1Marie-Clara: Ready for the Christmas Eve party. I think she really was the last thing on my list. I don't know how it happened, but I had a whole day yesterday in the warm, wool-wrapped house to sit and sew and cook. If you can manage it, I would say it is well-worth knocking a few to-dos off your list to gain these quiet hours.

Today, though, is all about the city spirit: We're headed back downtown to soak up the hustle and bustle, get a few last-minute gifts, visit Saturday Market, and have lunch somewhere fancy.

So I'll be taking a blog-break now to rest, relax, and enjoy the holiday. I wish you all a special time full of peace, love, safe travels, sweet dreams, and much, much happiness and joy.

xoxo,
A

December 21, 2006

Candy: Super Good

Sarahs1Oh, I was so happy yesterday. I felt free as a bird. It was amazing to have a whole day empty of obligation, full of friends and family and fun. Super bonus: I didn't even realize that Andy had the day off, so he, I, and even Audrey were all invited over to Sarah's for lunch and merrymaking. It was wonderful. Audrey was in heaven, happily munching her rawhide beside the fireplace while we all ate our soup. Little did she know that was just the beginning.

When we got home, our niece arrived and the graham-crackers, candy, and icing came out. "Gingerbread" cottages rule. One girl was so excited she couldn't wait for her cottage to dry properly before loading the roof with 47 Necco wafers and collapsed the entire structure into a heap of cracker-crumbs, broken wafers, icing-glue, and tears — so Uncle Andy kindly gave me his cottage and I stopped crying. I LOVE THAT MAN SO MUCH!!! Aghhh. He RULES. I love him.

Cottages2Actually, he made a grocery-store run, too, to get more graham-crackers because we were using leftovers from S'mores made at the beach last summer. If you're going to make these houses (do it), I would recommend having lots of extra crackers and icing only small sections of the house to decorate and let dry before proceeding to others. But we were being cautious after that first collapse.

Ta-da! Welcome to Arden's Place!

Cottages3 Isn't it just adorable?

Here's Uncle Andy's. His had a back porch and a grill.

Cottages4And those tiny candy canes around the roof? Amazing sprinkles from sweet Blair. Thanks Bee!!

You could say I was a teensy-weensy bit overly super-excited about my house.

Cottages5Those little red and green gumdrop-bits are Christmas lights around the roof and window.

Cottages9 When we were finished with the houses, Arden and Andy made some pinecones covered in peanut-butter and birdseed for the feathered friends in Grandma's yard. Then Arden made a saddle blanket out of paper, icing, and mini-gumdrops for her diminutive Clydesdale. I forget his name. That's what happens when one has about twenty model horses. Her old auntie just can't remember what we call all of them.

Fun fun fun. Super fun. Even if we didn't get that snowstorm we got last year, this year was better because Andy was home, too. Loved yesterday.

December 19, 2006

Countdown

Wreath5Oh, Christmas. Why do you come so soon? I haven't gotten sick of you at all, even though I started early. Now I'm counting days and hours left to enjoy the season and feeling that typical panic — not "will I get everything done?" (who cares about that) but "will I do everything I wanted to do?" Last night I was up in bed thinking while Andy and Audrey did their final walk-through downstairs (coffee, doors, lights) and when Andy came up I assaulted him with anxiety: "It's only three days until Christmas [I know it's not, I'm just telling you what I said, and I know he has no idea how many days there really are until Christmas, and, as mentioned, I have to pull out the big guns when I'm trying to make a point around here lately] and we haven't gone to our friend's Christmas-tree farm and had a party with cioppino and hot chocolate! We haven't gotten dressed up and kissed under any mistletoe! We haven't gone caroling!" "You want to go caroling?" "Well . . . no, but I mean . . . we haven't gone." "We have a friend with a Christmas-tree farm?" "No. . . ." And about four seconds later we were both fast asleep. Loooo-sers.

There's still time to make a gumdrop wreath! If you want to, I did a tutorial for them over at Kiddley today. They're super fun.

Also: I made it out to my P.O. box yesterday, and though I have sobbed many, many times for many reasons at the P.O., I've never sobbed because I was overwhelmed by Christmas cards and packages from blog friends I've never met. Until yesterday. I truly felt like I was in my very own Hallmark Christmas movie. I lumbered past the thirty-or-so peeps standing in line to mail their packages with my big box of presents and I thought my smile really was going to pop right off my face and kiss every one of those frowners as I went by. They just couldn't help but smile back at me. It was a great moment. Thank you, girls.

December 18, 2006

Frosty Fairy Ring and Cumulus Crackleware

Frostflowers3Out on the lawn this morning I discovered these frosty fleurs. I guess they sprung up overnight?

This past week was busy, and no one here was feeling particularly well, and we kept going upstairs to bed before 8 p.m. On Saturday night I think I was actually asleep by 8. I can't believe it's the week before Christmas. I'm hoping to finish all things work-related today, get the last of the presents finished and wrapped, make a list for everything else. Christmas cards will have to wait until New Year's. Neighbor-and-friend gifts need to be gotten. I really wanted to make my niece a Marie/Clara doll from The Nutcracker, but I'm pretty sure that won't happen either. (I've always known that character as Clara, but in the production we saw last week her name was Marie, so my niece knows her as Marie, and I keep forgetting that and referring to her as Clara — anyway.) These fleurs are intended for the site update in January, and were inspired by the movie Marie Antoinette. They're made of really luscious silks and cotton organdies and, appropriately, cotton lawn, and they just feel frothy and wonderful to me, like petticoats, or ball skirts.

CumulusrepimageOver the weekend I got some early presents — remember when I was excited about the honorable mention I got in the Apartment Therapy color contest? Well, they very generously sent a $150 gift certificate to the cb2.com web site, and I think I waited about two or three whole minutes before I was on my computer, ordering. I have been wanting new silverware forever, and so got this. And then I also got these really simple-but-pretty dishes, called Cumulus Crackle, and they really do have a sort of cloud-like billowy depth. Most of the pieces came on Friday night so that was pretty exciting and I love it all so much. there's nothing like having a big, fat gift card to make you feel like a kid at Christmas, let me tell you. Thank you again cb2, and Apartment Therapy, and very dear and incredibly talented Stephanie Waddell. I'm going to use all this new stuff for my Christmas Eve dinner and I can't wait.

I might be feeling pretty wiped out, I must confess, and looking forward to my break. I plan on putting off anything that takes any effort at all, like thinking, until after January 1. I really loathe pushing things to the last minute, and I have several play-dates lined up for myself over the next few days, so I'd better get up, buck up, and finish up. Then, it's playtime for me. I can't wait.

Frostflowers5

December 17, 2006

Sprinkle-Covered, Sprinkle-Colored

Morning1Yesterday's sunrise was a harbinger of colors to come. You know we like a candy-colored Christmas around here.

Iced2My cookies from the previous night were waiting. I find baking and decorating cut-out cookies a ton of work, so I've always used packaged dough and packaged royal icing because, even using those shortcuts, I'm (historically) ready to be done with the whole thing when I'm about 5/8ths done, which is the point at which I become fatigued with almost every project I undertake. I think it's like the Golden Mean with me. If I had to add dough- or frosting-making to the equation, I fear I wouldn't get past the baking part. Or perhaps the rolling-out part. Or actually I might just skip straight to the not-doing-it part. And the other thing is that I like the taste of these just fine. I prefer it, actually. It's like having a craving for Kraft macaroni and cheese. Sometimes it just hits the spot.

I do, however, hand-make all my sprinkles.

Iced3Kidding. By the end of the batch I'm just spraying sprinkles everywhere, Get on there, babies!, rushing to make them stick before all the frosting dries up. (It dries quick.)

Iced5Showers and showers of sprinkles. Sometimes it's hard to remember that "sprinkles" are actually "sugar." Biting into a cookie that actually crunches reminds you . . . as well as the sudden urge to lay down and take a nap about a half-hour later. . . .

Beads3The sprinkles reminded me of these beads, a big bowl of which I put together the other day. They're all just kids' beads from the craft store. I find stringing beads to be very relaxing. If you add pom-poms (see Heidi's adorable garlands over at Kiddley), you have a great TV-watching activity. My mom was looking for a project to do and I suggested this to her, and asked her to make me one. Immediately after hanging up the phone, I realized I felt a bit flushed . . . put hand to forehead . . . yes, I had the stringing-fever myself. So of course went out and bought three bags of beads and five bags of pom-poms and have made, so far, seven garlands. Sigh. I drive myself insane, I really do. I now have enough poms to fill a standard pillowcase. They do make adorable strands of cuteness for the tree or the mantle

Pompoms1Oops, wrong "mantle."

Garland1I meant this one.

Garland2 When we were house-hunting six years ago, we looked at a house that had a fireplace in the master bedroom, as well as a tiny nursery with a mint-green linoleum floor and little paned French doors off of it. The place was a fixer, and by the time we wanted to write our offer, one had already been made. But I drive past that house every few days on my way downtown and I think about it. A fireplace in the bedroom. It's a spectacular dream, don't you think? I could do a lot with that.

Iced7Generally, I'm just saying that it's good to have every aspect of your holiday decorating color-coordinated with your . . . sprinkles. Obviously, it's where one should always start.

December 16, 2006

All I Ever Wanted to Do Was Bake

Cookies1I did bake yesterday, but very late in the day, and only after getting caught out in east Portland in the middle of a blizzard. Funny, all my dreams of snow involve me puttering happily in a warm kitchen wearing pajama bottoms and a handknit cardigan, not driving in white-out conditions, with hardly any gas in the tank and crap windshield wipers. The light at SE 122nd and Stark (big intersection) was out, so it literally took us about twenty minutes to to go eight blocks as car after car needed to stop and take its turn. And let me just say, many, many people apparently do not know what to do when the stoplight is not working — they're just, like, driving obliviously through the intersection. Even if you didn't know the treat-it-as-a-four-way-stop rule, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the concept of waiting one's turn. And this was all before the snow. This was in regular weather.

Cookies2 But anyway, I finally get to my destination, just beyond the stoplight, at 1:30 p.m.: Fabric Depot. It's sunny. Perfectly sunny, nothing remarkable, just fine. I go into the Depot and I'm wandering around, get some fabric cut, still wandering when I hear this lady say, "Ohmigoodness! It's totally dark outside!" And we all look up and sure enough, it is dark as twilight. It looks, suddenly, like it's about 5:30. I leave my fabric and go running outside (along with ten other people). It was one of the freakiest things I have ever seen. Snow was blowing everywhere. Snow was piling up on cars and in the parking lot. There was about an inch on the ground. I had a sudden vision of getting snowed or iced in at the Fabric Depot — not the worst thing, but, as I said, all I ever wanted to do was bake, not sew. Last year when ice blew in, the city was shut down for two days. Six miles might as well have been sixty. I quick paid for my stuff, and hightailed it out to my snow-covered car, thinking all the while This probably isn't wise, but. . . . It seemed to be getting worse, but since it had just started I thought it was worth trying to get home. Suddenly Crash! I hear an accident far across the parking lot, horns honking, general pandemonium at the aforementioned intersection. Ugh. It started to hail. But the minute I pulled out onto the road I was strangely calm. I can do this, thought I, bravely.

Cookies3_1 Reader, I made it. I made it home. I drove for about two miles through the frenzied flakes going 4 m.p.h. (which seemed too fast) and then: Just as suddenly, the snow stopped, the sun came out, everything melted, we sped up to 35 m.p.h., and by the time I'd gone from 122nd Ave. to 82nd Ave., it was like it had never happened. I could not believe it. I turned left and continued on down the road to WinCo, where I got two different kinds of sugar-cookie dough, a huge bag of gumdrops, and a new spatula. And some frozen egg-rolls. I tried to tell Andy about it later, when we both got home from different sides of town (turns out there was nary a flurry on his side), and I could quickly see I would have to work to impress here. If I hadn't seen it myself I might not have believed it, but still. (And, by the way, if you couldn't guess yesterday, it was me nagging him about the vet, him nagging me about the toilet; the bit is gender-neutral and works for anyone, anywhere.) "Dude, seriously, I'm serious, it was totally snowing . . . look!" I said, pointing to a teensy little pile of already-dirty snow leftover around the trunk of a tree. "Wow." "I was really scared! I don't know how to drive in the snow anymore! Somebody crashed! I thought I was going to have to sleepover at Fabric Depot!" "Not the worst thing." "I know, but all I ever wanted to do was . . . nevermind."

Cookies5It was like he was from East Hampton or something. What's up with that.

December 12, 2006

Santa Lucia Dolls

Finishedlucias9Thank you for your commiseration on all the barfing and the volume, etc. "Bearing witness" took on whole new meaning there. Uncle Andy seems all better now, thank goodness. It seems salmon is, in fact, officially crossed off the list of Things He Loves, alas. . . .

Tomorrow is Santa Lucia Day. I made some little Santa Lucia and attendants dolls for a very special person who loves Santa Lucia Day. Unfortunately, I didn't get them to this very special person in time for Santa Lucia Day, but . . . she knows me. I'm always late with the really good presents. And I must say, this is a goodie.

I decided to go with fabric dresses instead of the paper-pleated ones I was thinking about because a) I didn't have the right paper at home and b) I felt like these little faces were pretty playful, and the paper flowers were pretty sophisticated, so those'll be for something else, perhaps over the mantle after all.

If you'd like to make some little Lucias (or angels or flower girls or ballet dancers or whatever you want), here is what you'll need:

Doll pins, 3 3/4"
Doll-pin stands, 1 1/8" x 1/2" round
Doll head beads, 1 1/4" (with hole in bottom big enough to fit over your pins)
Acrylic paints
Varnish
Assorted paintbrushes
White pipecleaner, cut in 6" piece (for arms)
Silver pipecleaner, cut in 2" piece (for wands)
Green pipecleaner, cut to fit around head (for wreathe)
Flame-colored glitter or glitter glue (for candletips)
8" square pieces of various cotton fabrics, starched and ironed (for dresses)
Scalloped scissors or pinking shears
Upholstery thread
Embroidery floss (for sashes)

I had a lot of this stuff already, but you can get almost all of it at JoAnn's. Or just do a Google search and order it on-line wherever's best for you. You just want to make sure that your heads fit on the tops of whatever pins you use, since their little tops are different sizes depending on what brand you find. (I may put together kits of all this stuff if there is interest.)

Lucia3So, paint your pins and stands. I painted the tops of the pins peach, and the "feet" and stands white (for stockings) for all the attendants, and red for the Lucia.

Lucias1_1Then, paint the heads. I did mine peach all over, with two coats over the face. Use an extra pin to hold the heads while you are painting and while they are drying. When dry, do the hair and then the face. When all painting is finished and dry, coat the heads with varnish. (I didn't bother varnishing the pins or stands, but you can do that if you want.)

Lucia2Next, trace the pattern on the wrong side of your fabric with an air-erase marker. (Lucias typically wear all white dresses with red sashes, but I went with calico for the attendants, and white eyelet for the Lucia.) Cut out dress pattern with scallop shears (Fiskars makes these) or regular pinking shears on the outside of the lines (see pattern), and cut along line with straight scissors from hem to neckline. Make tiny holes at markings with embroidery scissors. With upholstery thread and using a running stitch to gather, stitch around neckline of dress, leaving long ends (no knots) at either edge of dress opening.

Lucia4Slide piece of white pipecleaner up through opening in pin, leaving about 1" of pipecleaner hanging out right side of pin, and, from the wrong side, poke the left side of the pipecleaner through the small hole on that side of dress. Really. Just try. It's easier than I'm making it sound, I promise.

Lucia5 Curve pipecleaner around front and poke it through hole in right side. Join to other end of pipecleaner by twisting ends together, and slide the joined part into the opening of the pin. This is all much, much easier than it sounds, I swear. You're basically making a ring of pipecleaner and hiding the joined part within the clothespin.

Lucia6Then stick the pin up through the neck opening of the dress, and tie to upholstery thread tightly around the groove in the pin neck. Spread gathers out equally around neck. Can you see the little white pipecleaner, coming out from either side of the pin, and going out through the holes?

Lucia7Smooth the dress down. Then just play with the arms until you get a nice, smooth circle.

Lucia10_1 Then stick her head on. I didn't glue mine, so that I could move them to imply different attitudes, but you could add a drop of glue to them when you find what you like.

Lucia12_1 But Santa Lucia's attendants often carry candles; mine have silver wands. Just bend up the bottom of the wand a bit and squeeze it onto the center of the arms. Use a piece of embroidery floss (all six plies) and tie it around her waist (under arms) and make a bow in the back. (Upholstery thread is pictured here, but on the finished dolls I used floss.) Smooth out gathers and then fluff up skirt. (Starching fabric before making dress helps it keep a poufy appearance.)

To make the Lucia's wreath, just use green pipecleaner to make a ring that will fit her head, and cut five 1"-pieces of white pipecleaner for "candles." Fold and pinch ends of candles around wreath, then add dabs of glitter to tips of candles and let dry.

You're done! Now set them up and take pictures of them, of course!

Finishedlucias3 

Finishedlucias5

Finishedlucias2

Finishedlucias6Happy Santa Lucia Day, everyone. I wish you love and light. 

December 11, 2006

Dancing Downtown, and then, Unfortunately, Barfing

Nutcracker6Here are Andy and our niece Arden, doing ballet moves after Saturday's matinee performance of The Nutcracker at Keller Auditorium. It was Arden's first time at the ballet and she loved it. I recommend bringing your opera glasses if you go, because you will want to stare at those costumes. Gosh, they were so gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful. The Snowflakes were just dreamy-dreamy-dreamy-dreamy. (And [oh yeah!] the dancing is magical, too.)

Nutcracker1Dinner out afterward, and a trip to the special candy store to get some fancy candies for a future (maybe next week) graham-cracker gingerbread house. There were sparkly lights everywhere, lots of shoppers, bells jingling. Good old Christmastime-in-the-city stuff; I could've stayed for hours. Uncle Andy was beginning to complain about an upset stomach but soldiered on.

Until we got home. Arden and I turned on the Christmas lights, got into our cozy pajamas, made some hot chocolate, popped Winnie the Pooh into the DVD player, and sat down to make some dolls. Uncle Andy disappeared into the bathroom. Soon, Audrey, Arden, and Alicia were all staring goggle-eyed toward the bathroom door, from behind which some very . . . worrisome . . . noises emanated. If John Belushi in his heyday had been picked to do the voiceover for a cartoon about barfing up half a pizza, he couldn't have done it better than Andy Paulson. Or louder. Audrey, from her dog-bed, stared worriedly toward the bathroom, then looked at me: What was happening? "Are you alright hun?" I called. "Mmm hmm," he answered. A few minutes later, he rejoined us, gray-faced in his Chicago Bears sweatpants, raising a shaky gray hand: "Hi . . . girls . . . how's it going . . . out here? I'm just going to lay here . . . wrapped in a blanket on the dining room floor for a while . . . clutching my stomach. What's Pooh doing [pointing weakly at TV and sinking to carpet]?"

Salmon. Bad salmon, and a lot of it, earlier that morning and the night before. And the sad thing was, he had been so excited. Andy is a frequent salmon-smoker. And the night before I had never seen him so excited about his salmon. "Oh, this is so good. This is the best one I've ever done. Yum yum. Try this, hun. Seriously. It's sooooo good." (I don't like salmon so I didn't have any.) "Wow, it's so great" and more like this Saturday morning, "Yum, yum, salmon, salmon," etc., etc. By Saturday night the barfing started and continued (loudly) throughout the night and into Sunday morning. Oh, it was so sad!!!

PonypalcafeSo sad. We all felt terrible for him. Arden and I worked on our dolls, ate pancakes guiltily, and tossed sympathetic looks his way, but none of it helped. (Later: Just found this menu in the kitchen; as far as I know the 2 pancakes for Andy were wishful-thinking, but the 7-Up with 2 [cubes] were welcome. And for the record, I did get the OJ and the coffie, but we were out of sawsig :-) I think the Mylanta and Pepto Bismol (not on menu) might have worked for Andy, eventually, because he seems pretty-much okay today. (And yes, calls to the fishmonger will be placed. Can't remember where he said he got the fish.) Poor man. Well, at least we got to spend Sunday together, since he called in sick. I'm not sure he remembers it (delirium) but . . .

Lucias2. . . I finished the Lucias. I think I was having too-good of a time with them. You'll see them (along with a tutorial!) tomorrow. This morning I asked him how he felt and added, "Wow. You're a really loud barfer!" He said, "I've heard louder [at the hospital]."
     "Oh jeez — really?"
     "Yeah, and I always thought they were just doing it to get attention. Turns out, they're not."
     "Ohmigosh."
     "Yeah. Learn a little something every darn day."

December 09, 2006

Lucia Idea, and Confusion

FleursI know a lot of people have shared this photo, from the current issue of Marie Claire Idees, but I had to show it again. I can't stop looking at it, in all its delicate, gentle beauty. I think these would be gorgeous, hung above a table, or over a Christmas village, or high aloft a baby crib? Just beautiful.

LuciaideaI'm going to translate those wintry blossoms, somehow, into the little Lucias I mentioned I wanted to make a few weeks ago. Of course now I'm running late with the idea (when before I felt too early), but we'll see if this happens. I'm behind in everything, but your orders really are trickling out (despite successful Violet-type efforts to the contrary). They are happening, and everything will be out this week, I promise.

But the quiet poignancy of last week slowed me, most of us, to a sad, bewildered float. As I thought about and prayed for the Kims, I spent hours with my head in the dog's bed alongside Audrey, and it felt good to just take care of someone, good to feel the impossible softness of her grateful chin, heavy in my palm. But there was, parallel to that softness, the ever-present frustration of not being able to do enough or even anything for her; the unwillingness to gracefully accept that our collective hope for the Kims could not find them in time; the panic that is really a memory of pain, felt when I remember the times I have been lost, when I think about the people I love or don't even know who are worried, stumbling, looking, whose feet hurt. Sometimes it seems that bearing witness is all we can do. I don't know. Is that right? I don't know. If that's it, I will do it, as it has been done for me.

When confused, crafting is always good medicine. So, donations, handmade gifts after all, Lucia dolls, to bring more light to this time.

December 05, 2006

Still Hoping

I know we are all holding our breath, along with the Kim family, until James Kim is found. It seems, with the morning light, that they must be closer than ever to where he is. A local news report is here. The world seems small when people from all around it are connected by their collective hope, but so enormously big when one is still lost. We continue to hope and pray for James's safe return.

Thank you so much for coming over yesterday and ordering, and ordering. I'm . . . wow. Overwhelmed by all your kind words, repeat orders, new orders, all of it. Thank you. The birds say thank you, too. They are all very much looking forward to spending the holidays with you. (Oh, and if you ordered a bird but the Paypal button said "Pouf Boutonniere" that was my blunder; bird you will get. Whoopsie. As usual!)

Birdgroup4_2All the Friendly Birds and Cagelets are gone, but there is still a lot of good stuff over there. I'll begin shipping today, but it will take me the rest of the week and the weekend to get everything out. I'm looking forward to it, actually. I feel fairly organized, for once. The house is a mess, but an organized mess. We even have groceries. Wow. I knew I'd left the house once in the last five days; that must have been where I went. Can't even remember. I'm actually looking forward to going to the P.O. later. With Paypal click-'n'-ship, I don't even have to do that. Wow. Thank goodness for international orders (you have to take those into the P.O.) or I'd be entering the five-day-stretch of almost-total pajama wearing. Yikers.

Thank you again for ordering, dear friends. I'm more grateful than I can express. Thank you.

December 04, 2006

Weekend of Worry, and Work

Hearts are heavy here on the West Coast and everywhere this morning as there is still no sign of the Kim family, lost in southern Oregon last week. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and their family and friends.

I never actually made it out of the house at all. I just quietly crafted and crafted, and photographed things in the sunlight, and Photoshopped images, and worked on the web site, getting it ready for today. I always very much underestimate how much time the photography/web site stuff takes. I don't know if I just do things in a particularly inefficient way or if it just takes that much elbow grease. I think it just takes that much elbow grease.

Pho_muse_kensingtongate_lgI didn't get some things done that I expected to; I did get some things done that I never expected to. Like these, little collages using my very best original sewing pattern images. I call them Household Muses. They have addresses instead of names. I'm really happy with them. I can't help it; I love those illustrations ever so much. I've been collecting vintage patterns for a long time. Isn't it amazing that usually just one size came in old patterns? Now there are like, what, five or something, in each package?

Pho_muse_magnoliact_lgI was a little conflicted about cutting them up, but I do believe in giving new life to old things, letting them work their magic in another context. I was tempted to call this one "Bibbity Bobbity Boo," actually. But it's "124 Magnolia Court." Doesn't she look like she's conjuring up something good in the neighborhood? These are tiny, about four inches by four inches. They're reminiscent of the larger collages I've made as gifts for friends.

Pho_woolrose2_icefloe_lgMore Wool Roses. I've been using up all of my best buttons lately, but it's worth it. But I need to get out there and start searching again. People ask me all the time how to find vintage stuff and my answer: You pound the pavement, girls. I don't know an easy way. I don't know an easy way to find any of it. My resources are the same as anyones. I have a car, the Yellow Pages, the classifieds, and Google. That's it. No magic wand. You wander the aisles, you peer into every corner.

Pho_bird3_polly_medSo, Friendly Birds happened this week, too. They've been "happening" for weeks, in various stages of completion. I just so love watching their little personalities come out as they get finished. I don't share the process for these; that's my special secret, just between me and them. They're so sweet. Very well behaved. Most birds are, no? They're pretty much life-size, too, which I think contributes to the sense that they're hanging out, participating.

Pho_bird3_margeaux_lg
There are also new Cagelets, some new Christmassy things, new Boutties, the Winter Camellias, new Thank-You Postcards. Lots of good stuff. This will be my last major update before the new year, and then I'll stop taking orders after December 15, as I mentioned.

Pho_cage_missswiss_med2 After the 15th, I'm looking forward to settling in and getting the site fully loaded for magazine stuff in January. Part of me thinks that everyone (including me, frankly) will be pretty disinterested in doing anything other than lying on the sofa watching retrospectives of 2006 (love those) on January 2, 2007. But that's my next deadline. I'd hate to have a bunch of new people come to the site (if they come) and have it be all lame, so my goal is to have it nicely filled back up by then. We'll see.

See you at 2 p.m.! 

December 01, 2006

No Sweater Bags

Camellia1But there will be lots of pretty new things on Monday, my last major update before I stop taking orders on December 15. New Cagelets with vintage birds. New paper mache Friendly Birds. New Winter Camellia pins, like this one.

Bouttie2 All new Pouf Boutonnieres. Perhaps new puppies, I'm not sure. New POSTCARDS, with pink envelopes. Super excited about those. I can't remember what else. No Sweater Redux bags again though, even though I said I would have them. I'm sorry. Those just take so much time, and I felt it was better to get a higher quantity of littler things finished. I hope I can get myself to do them again. I'm not feeling it right now, alas. But maybe after things slow down. Those are molasses-slow projects. I'm more paint-ball these days, unfortunately.

OlivineshowSo I'm going to take the weekend away from the blog (though I'm going to try very hard to sneak out to this cool holiday sale my friends Shelly and Denise will be at) while I scramble to get as much stuff finished for the site update on Monday, December 4. Let's say 2 p.m. PST again. That gives me some time to get things worked out technically in the morning. And this time, it really will be first come, first served, and I'll email people right away if the thing they wanted gets scooped by someone else, so please check your email a couple of times after you place your order, just to make sure you don't hear from me that the thing is gone. The Cagelets and Friendly Birds cannot be duplicated; these flower pins get duplicated about eight or so times before they're done; I used to do dozens and dozens of the same one but I'm changing that. Too boring, but I was too lazy to change the photos. There are a bobillion postcards, so you're very safe with those.

Can you believe the spell-checker doesn't know how to spell bobillion? Hell-o!

Flierbackjpg2 *Steph just sent this flyer for another sale that sounds really good on Saturday, too. All the Congdon ladies will have their beautiful things there, and there's music and storytelling and treats, too, all for a good cause. And I was planning on working all day! Time to pull an all-nighter, apparently, cause these things are too good to miss. . . .

November 29, 2006

Me on Blogging, and My Childhood, AGAIN

Thankyoupcs2This blog is becoming rather meta-blog, I know. But I read a really poignant post yesterday called "To Blog or Not to Blog" by Autum. She was talking about blogging in a way that I thought was so sincere and interesting, and important to consider, especially at the beginning of this season of joy and fun and, let's be honest, busy-ness and potential stress. Blogging can be lots of things. Most bloggers will say that they enjoy the sense of community; the inspiration; the ability to share and be shared with; the nice, neat feelings of being organized somewhere, at least; the profoundly moving experience of being listened to. But almost everyone that I've ever talked to about blogging feels, at some point, something else, something . . . not as wonderful.

I obviously don't know what those un-wonderful things are for everyone — I think they probably vary more for each individual than the positive aspects do. I know that for me, blogging itself — the actual writing of posts and taking photos — comes pretty easily. But I went to school for years to learn how to write and, you know, I actually worked for a photo-essay-book publisher for several years. So . . . that's helpful. The blog is the first time I've ever written about myself, in first-person; I hadn't known how much I'd needed to do or would enjoy doing that. Many times I write things that I never set out to say, and I do wake up every day wondering what the hell might come out of my mouth. The medium seems to fit the natural . . . environment of my brain. But I must admit that the most important thing about blogging for me is just doing it. I love the real-life friendships I've made, I love the supportive community that I'm lucky enough to find myself in, and I love feeling connected to so many people from other countries, regions, and cultures I never knew anything about.

But mostly I really like the sense of organization and expression that my own blogging has given me. I am someone who has always been easily overwhelmed; and expressing oneself in our family was really not encouraged. It actually wasn't even allowed. The smallest of dissentions was typically met with my father becoming hysterical and threatening (seriously) to have a heart attack, the guilt from which (he avidly threatened) would haunt us forever. Many, many times I thought that exact thing would happen, and it definitely did serve to keep us in line. The only conversation I clearly remember having with him about an opinion I had that didn't end in me crying alone in my room happened around 1977, when we both stood in the living room and agreed:

Me: "I love bell-bottoms!"
He: "Yeah, they're pretty cool."
Me: [Smile smile smile smile.]

That's exactly how it went. I still remember it. For years of my childhood I would also say dialog that was not my own; it was how I tested out my theory that there was something wrong with the way my family communicated. I read often and everywhere, and I knew a lot about fictional families. I studied them. I memorized their habits. Then I'd walk into the kitchen, take off my boots, and say, "Snow, which was fun in December, is just boring, dirty, and downright cold in February." I liked that line. It was from A Summer to Die, by Lois Lowry, one of my favorite then-and-now young-adult novels. But whereas in the novel it was clear that when Meg said things like this, her father pleasantly agreed (and probably even thought "My! How clever, her!"), people in my house would look at me as if I'd just farted, say "Shut up," and then go back to what they were doing. I tried this experiment many times, with dozens of different lines, and I never got the same kind of reaction the characters did. In fact, if some twelve-year-old started spewing stuff like this to me now I would know exactly what she was up to, and I like to think we'd be sitting down and having a nice talk about her life. (Actually, if someone else in my family had walked in and said something like that I probably would've told them to shut up, too.) (And actually, there was one time when I insisted that my family gather 'round to do a dramatic reading of Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano and that did not go over well, but if you know that play you might know that they really can't be blamed for that one!) But my dialogic experimentation was helpful in a lot of ways, because I thought that mostly the books were right and mostly my father was wrong, and I still do, and so from a very early age I started trusting books more than I trusted my parents judgment on many things, and I feel lucky that I was able to do that. So while being a regular blogger has helped me stay organized within my life in a way I never have been before, it's also fostered a voice and a place where it's no big deal to lurch about, saying this or that, whatever it is, testing things, figuring out what I think, what lots of other people think. And that is something that has been invaluable to me, something I'd not experienced much before.

Minilanterns On the other hand, I think that for many Reserved (one of the best descriptions of introverts I've read) persons like me (and, I expect, many other crafters) the challenges that come with having any audience at all can be difficult to manage sometimes. All of us want, I think, to be able to respond to everyone's comments and questions, to check-in on our friends, to give help and advice when its needed. But the reality is that there is only so much time in a day — especially at this time of year — and only so many . . . relationships . . . one can do well. The nagging feeling that certain things, people, and opportunities have fallen through the cracks can be frustrating but . . . inevitable? I made a promise to myself early on in blogging that I would give what I could, when I could, because the important thing was to find a way to keep doing it — happily, without it feeling like a burden or another bundle of expectations to be dealt with. As women, I think we are well-trained to do whatever we have to do to meet anyone and everyone's expectations, and blogging can create even more of those. But to me, there are lots of kinds of blogs, and I don't mean genres like "craft" or "political"; I mean: some are sporadic posters, some are personal, some share tutorials, some gather work from others, some show only one's own stuff, some are brilliant at sourcing products, some have ads, some invite conversation and debate, some just put it out there and leave it be, no comments necessary. There's room for them all. I hope we can allow ourselves the freedom to let our own, and each other's, be just whatever they are.

As the postcards say, thank you. As always. For listening, and contributing, how-ever you do.

November 28, 2006

* S * N * O * W *

Snowday1Can you see it? Seeeee it? It's there, it really is. Santa must have gotten my letter already! That was so fast!

Snowday2It's not much, but it's enough. I love seeing snow on the rooftops and little puffs of woodsmoke trailing gently from all the chimneys. This won't last — it's still early morning and bound to get warmer — but oh oh oh is it fun to wake up to. Oh! for an SUV and a ride up to the mountain! Snowbound at Timberline Lodge. My dream.

In anticipation of our own slight dusting, last night I made these little Pinecone Nests. This is Miss Winterberrie.Pineconenest1

She sits on a little nest of vintage buttons. They must be kept warm, you know.

Pineconenest3_1And this is Miss Twilit Snow.

They're sort of a mini, wintry version of the Cagelets (which I am working on for the site update Monday). More of these will be up on the site, too. My mini-break holiday weekend is *O*V*E*R* and it's back to work around here. Lots and lots to finish and photograph. New postcards, too. I'll show you those tomorrow. As mentioned, I'm hoping for Cagelets, Sweater Redux bags, Friendly Birds, possibly sock friends and new stockings, but it just depends. I'll try for it all.

Wow. It's freezing in the house! How exciting. C'mon flakey little flakes! I need you!

November 27, 2006

Winter Colors

Rosegarden My niece and I headed up to the hills yesterday morning to see the rose garden in winter, and check out the Five Friends from Japan exhibit at the children's museum, and then out to lunch downtown. The rose garden in winter is one of my favorite places. This green. Almost fluorescent. Everything glistening with rain and cold. We were the only ones there. Quiet quiet. Beautiful.

ChildrensmuseumWe had dramatic weather this weekend: sunshine, rain, wind, clouds, snow in almost every direction at higher elevations around the city, still some to come above 500 feet. Alas, our house sits at about 173. I love seeing the sun set through bare trees, but it's rather uncommon here. Usually the sky is a rather stuffed-up pale gray, low, filled with drizzle. It's helpful to enjoy indoor activities.

Childrensmuseum3 I like winter colors that are clear and bright. Similar to the colors I like in summer, but glazed with a sort of frosty haze. Pinks, blues, creams, caramels, silver, a little red. Yellow, for a candle-y glow. I do like that dark green, almost gray, too. Maybe I'll get a teensy little live tree for the living room. The living room is super-dark greeny-gray and it looks pretty with pinks and whites. These are little clay sculptures made by kids at the children's museum. Too cute.

MercantilewindowWe stopped for lunch and then to get some origami paper at Art Media. This window was across the street. It reminded me of my tree.

Balloons3Origami paper balloons are a good couch project after you get home and warm up. We've made them in our family for years. You just pop them on lights and they're fine — turn them off at night. I might put these on the little pine tree I get. Maybe we should rent one of these?

Balloons6Or I'll just chuck the lighted balloon strands up onto the window. I always like fairy lights in big piles or just strewn about. It sure is easier. I like easy.

*For Mary, and anyone else who was wondering if I've completely lost my mind (which is truly always something to wonder with me) — no, those aren't real presents under the tree in the last post. We don't have any real presents until a few days before Christmas. (We are normal people, I swear — it's just that if we don't do the decor when Andy is home for a couple of days in a row, we get too busy and it gets shafted.) I wrapped most of those boxes before we had the fake tree (which is antique, so I don't know where else you can get one) in order to keep the pets from getting in there and drinking the tree water. So now I just pile them up under the fakey, or use them as props for product shots and stuff. But they are very disturbing to all children who see them, I must admit. . . .

November 26, 2006

Tree-Trimming Day

Treetrimming2_1 I recommend starting with hot chocolate. Always start with hot chocolate.

Treetrimming1Ours comes from little kits we made as Christmas presents two years ago. I can tell you that the stuff holds up well. This tasted as good as could be. Not too sweet. Of course, you must add your own whip and sprinkles, yeah?

Treetrimming4A fire is nice, while you put the tree together. Or, rather, while you wait for someone else to put the tree together. Last year it started to fall over, fully loaded. Yeeeikes. But this year it's been repaired. Phew.

Treetrimming10Then the other stuff comes up from the basement. Wreathes. Made these, years ago now.

Treetrimming11And ornaments. Made the little felty frocks and skirts a few years ago too. Gosh, time flies. Someone from one of the old Ella Posie holiday bazaars made the little glittered dresses and mitts , but I can't remember her name. Cute though. And thank you to everyone who has been so kind, trying to help me find the Lucias I was wanting — I don't think I was able to get back to everyone individually yet. Unfortunately, they were almost $100 when I calculated the exchange from krona to dollars! Wow. So, I'm going to try and make my own version out of stuff from the regular store. But I really appreciate the info — thank you so much.

Treetrimming6Here's the snowman my mom made in 1970. I thought I had some others but I think they got divvied up between us girls. I showed my mom the magazine the other day and she couldn't believe it. She said these were a lot of work. Super-cute though. I love him. Enamel paint is so cool.

Treetrimming15 Treetrimming13

Treetrimming16Treetrimming20

Here are some of my other favorite ornaments. I have a lot vintage balls on my tree. I just like all different colors and I really like round shapes. We do a sort of candy-colored Christmas. Lots of red and pink, and of course silver.

Treetrimming19I also love having a fake tree. We got it about five years ago, and though it was kind of expensive, it is, in the long run, a lot cheaper than buying real ones every year. We also got it because we felt so sad seeing the dried up brown little tree out on the curb after Christmas. This one just gets back in its box until next year. I think she's pretty happy with us. She really likes getting dressed up. I do miss that live-pine smell, though. Must get a little clutch of branches somewhere.

I keep most of my decorating for Christmas to one room. Otherwise I get too overwhelmed and I don't like that. I use white fairy lights in several rooms as actual light sources year-round, anyway, so they're always a little bit festive. We also put most of our Christmas lights on remote-control thingies. You can get them at Kmart, or probably Target or something. It's really great — no bending over and fumbling with the plugs with tree branches poking you in the cheek. You actually stand across the room and point the thing, and click. Other lights we have on floor-pedal plug-ins that sit on the floor, so you just step on them. It's great.

Treetrimming18Another wreathe. From the party last year. That was a really fun night. I keep thinking I should have the girls over to the house to make some this year. When should we do that, girls? I still have a bunch of the styrofoam forms. It's a totally fun thing to do.

Treetrimming12Anyway, on to the mantle. The Sweatery Stockings get hung. Might have to make us some stripey ones. Those were my favorites.

Treetrimming7And the village goes up. It's my favorite, favorite thing. I absolutely love seeing them around the blogs — I know Blair's is up, and Claire's working on one, and Danny's is made of cards, anybody else? Here was mine last year. I have to put those snowflakes up still. Forgot about those. They all fell out of the ceiling last year, so I need to think about how to get them up. I think I had some batting snow drifts, too. To make all the hills and dales I stacked up a bunch of white foam blocks I had around, and then laid a bunch of lights underneath a double-layer of white linen (also had that around — wouldn't buy linen for something like this, but it has a nice texture).

Treetrimming8Most of these houses are vintage, including the church, found at an antique expo. But I think I might make another village this year myself. I love those little graham cracker houses in the new Martha. Man, those are adorable. I don't know what I'm going to do for my special project this year. Maybe that patchwork wool quilt I was talking about a few months ago. I don't know. Something.

Treetrimming9_1Ahhhh. What a great weekend. We always do our decorations right after Thanksgiving. I love love love love love love love it when Andy is home for four days in a row. It is so very difficult for him to get the actual holiday-days off; I am incredibly grateful that we got to spend this whole special weekend together. His presence makes everything bright to me, just . . . everything. This is Audrey waiting for him to come back into the room. That's just how I feel. He's at work today. Come back. Come home. It's nice here now.

November 24, 2006

The Morning After the Smorgasbord Before

Thanksgiving6Dinner was extra-large and so fun to make. Andy and I cook really well together and we are so happy when we are in the kitchen, preparing things. We had much too much, probably. There was:

Turkey
Mushroom stuffing
Sausage stuffing
Butternut squash lasagna
Baked beans
Spinach gratin
Nigella potatoes
Seven-layer salad
Broccoli casserole
Rolls
Spiced cider
Pumpkin pie
Apple cheesecake

Thanksgiving7I love the way the house feels in the afternoon before a holiday. It's quiet, clean, expectant. Smells great. Good music.

Thanksgiving4I thought the red stuff was pretty. And I brought the cuckoo clock down. It was my Grandma Ieronemo's and my parents gave it to me when they moved here. I've had it hanging in our bedroom for a long time, but seeing all the cuckoos on the blogs lately reminded me that I've been meaning to move it to the dining room, where it has room to work. It's a big hit with a certain four-year-old for whom time becomes simply a series of opportunities to see the cuckoo pop out. It needs a few little repairs but it still keeps time. I remember my grandma pulling the pinecones up every morning, first thing; I don't know how old it is, at least forty years. It's amazing that it made it all the way to Oregon from Illinois. See how the maple-leaf tick-tocker is blurry? Love that.

Thanksgivingdessert2Audrey and I got a D. Minus. It did not go well! A freaking-out dog on a leash on a hardwood floor is . . . not a pretty sight. It's okay, though. We'll keep trying. The freak-out only lasted for about five minutes, though, and then a good time was proceeded to be had by all. (And that is one tough floor, I tell ya.)

Thanksgiving8Andy woke up this morning and told me his dream, which was also about waking up and telling me his dream about waking up and telling me his dream. The only way he knew he wasn't still dreaming was that the bed's headboard was different. It was like a meta-meta-dream. I'm so excited about today. After we get everything cleaned up, we're going to go downtown for window shopping, books, a movie, hot chocolate, and the city's Christmas-tree lighting tonight. I hope you're doing something fun like that, too. Though lying on the sofa with a cat and a fairisle sock on one's double-pointeds sounds pretty dang good, too. Where's that cat? She's over on Andy. Where's the other one. I need her. And a turkey sandwich, stat.

Sock

November 21, 2006

One of a Kind (and Not So Much)

PuppiesbasketDid you hear it? The deafening, bone-quivering sigh of thanks that emanated from my core when I finished cloning the twentieth puppy last night? You didn't? That's surprising. Audrey thought we might be having another earthquake, but no, it was just me, exhaling.

So all puppies will be weaned today, and all orders from last week will be on the way to their new homes today. Thank you to everyone who has written to say you are happy with your postcards (and some of you are already getting your other things, too). Thank you — I love getting those emails. I'm also always so grateful to those of you who order, and especially those of you who are returning customers. It's funny — I can't always tell who everyone is from the Paypal orders, because I know most folks from their blog names, or often people use their husband's Paypal account to place orders. so I wind up writing things like, "Thanks, Bob! Enjoy this handbag! xo, Alicia" on my notes. So, thank you, Bob, and everyone else — thank you!

Speaking of puppies, Audrey and I have a new routine when the doorbell rings. Melissa and Sam were over last week, and Audrey was so naughty and obnoxious that I, personally, just wanted to leave the property. And it was my house, and my dog. I can only imagine how they felt. I told Melissa that I'll never forget the sight of Sam (who, by the way, if you don't know him, is one of the absolute coolest kids I know), sitting on Melissa's lap with huge blue tears in his eyes, mesmerized by a video of Audrey having a walk, while the real-life Audrey barked and jumped on him annoyingly. It was like he couldn't believe that the reality of Audrey was so . . . different, I'll just say different . . . from the vid of Auds. He clearly preferred the vid. I did, too.

So this week we've instituted the collar-and-leash method when the doorbell rings. Doorbell rings. Dog goes crazy. Collar and leash go on. Dog goes crazy. Person on porch waits patiently. Leash gets snapped. Dog's like, "WHAT? I can't even believe you just did that, lady?" I keep reminding myself to be strong, that it's for all of our own goods. Dog begins to control herself. Another little snap. Dog calms almost completely. Person comes in. Dog gets hyper. Another snap. Visitor ignores dog. Dog calms down. I praise dog. Leash comes off. Visitor pets dog. Dog slightly quivery/whiney but trying very hard. A word of warning, dog calms happily. IT'S ALL GOOD. Why has it taken me five years to put a leash on the dog in the house? I absolutely cannot believe how quickly this is working. Am I doing it right? I am going to be consistent and firm. I love my dog so much, but I want her to learn how to fit into this family and our community. I have always wanted this, I just wasn't sure what to do to make it happen. Screaming didn't work, ignoring doesn't work, chasing doesn't work, staring disappointedly doesn't work. So many of her natural tendencies are wonderful we got off kind of easy with the training part. So, thank you to all of the recommendations on the dogs and trick-or-treaters post, especially Paula. I know I can do this. And I know she can do it. I know that she desperately does want to be a good girl, if only I can figure out what the hell it is I'm asking her to do. So, Sam, come back soon (not too soon, but soon-ish) — I think things are going to be different around here. I'm very excited.

Shannon1

November 17, 2006

Tiramisu Blanket, and a Progress Report

Blanket1Look, it's sunshine. Wow. And it's a finished blanket. Double wow! As mentioned, this blankie is my own pattern called the Tiramisu Baby Blanket, crocheted of Blue Sky Alpacas organic cotton. Anybody want to test it early? Let me know and I'll send the pattern to you if you'll be very pedantic about it and let me know how it goes. Eventually I'll offer this as a freebie here on the blog and it will also be available in January in Kerrie Rycroft's new magazine, Yarn Forward. Their first issue came out in the U.K. a few weeks ago and it looks like it's going to be great.

Okay, what else. All postcards from the first postcard sale should have been in your mailbox yesterday — we're they? I used the Paypal click-n-ship option for the first time, which was nice, because it cuts down time spent at the actual P.O., but requires applying five separate strips of packing tape (one to each side of the label and across the address, and you can't tape over the bar code, which is about a quarter of an inch away from each edge) with near-surgical precision. Don't worry, I've got the ($$$) sticker paper now. But it's a pretty cool feature to have. Half of Monday-the-13th's packages are packed and ready to go, except for their labels. The only ones that are lagging a bit are any that had puppies in them, but we've already talked about those; I'm shooting for early next week, but we're talking almost two dozen puppies, so . . . yeah. Safety First in the lab, of course, but I am rushing it, I promise.

And, just so I can sleep at night, I feel I must qualify my promises about the next Posie web shop update, currently scheduled for December 4. (And, BTW, I'm now going to henceforth refer to the "Posie web site" as the "Posie web shop" to assuage confusion between it and this, the "blog," which is often referred to as a "web site," as in, "Hey, Alicia, I wrote a post on your web site this morning!" to which I usually say, "Oh! . . .  Thanks!" but I know that what they mean is that they "made a 'comment' on the 'blog'." Some of us are twitchily pedantic, some are luckier.) But anyway, about the "web shop": As I said, I will try and have as much new stuff, including pups, Cagelets, Friendly Birds, and other new things, like yesterday's Winter Camellias, as I can, but I just can't promise how much; and though you know I live in constant fear of disappointing anyone on earth, I may just. It's very likely I will. I will do the best I can, but, since I'm still getting emails to this effect, please note as per my FAQ page, I can't do custom or even special orders, and at this time of year it's incredibly hard to do rush orders or chat about stuff or really even to help anyone but myself and the people who have ordered things from me, so I just wanted to say that. Busy time, about to get busier.

Calico Balloon, the new site web shop I'm working on which will include a lot of cool vintage stuff as well as stuff by designers other than myself, is slowly but surely coming along, though I don't really expect it to be done before Christmas. I'm actually shooting for January 2, which is the date that the article about my studio in Better Homes & Gardens Creative Home comes out. On that same day the February issue of Romantic Homes also hits the stands, and in that there will be a little profile of Paulson domestic life. Then, on February 2 the big article with lots of pretty pictures of the house comes out (also in Romantic Homes). So, lots of things to get ready for. The timing is pretty darn tight. I'm hoping it all goes well, but I also have plans to pace myself through it all, and only say yes to what I truly think I can do. That's the plan, at least. Traditionally, when overwhelmed and stressed I complain radically and without pause, and then lose my sense of humor completely, which sucks because being a raving maniac is rather at odds with the "what a cute house and nice life" kind of thing, but there it is. I complain a lot naturally, but when the sense of humor goes, that's really bad. I'd rather have the cat sit on me while cleaning itself. And, just FYI, I absolutely cannot stand to have a cat touching me while it is licking itself as it is this very minute, bleeeeeeech! Off. God that's disgusting. But I would take that, if it meant a guaranteed sense of humor when my head starts spinning around.

*Thank you all crocheting volunteers! I think we're good to go now and don't need any more testers, thank you! We'll get this pattern happening and put it out for everyone soon.

November 16, 2006

Winter Blossoms

CamelliasThere is something irresistable, and decadent, about the texture of ultrasuede. Its pricetag reflects that, but occasionally I must indulge. These ultrasuede camellias are on their way to becoming pins. I've been trying to get to the ends of these busy days by rewarding myself with something relaxing, flowers, poms, cooking, movies.

Thank you for all the musical suggestions yesterday! That was exciting. I did wind up listening to Sufjan Stevens all day. It held up beautifully, I must say. And the flurry of paperwork I was under seemed like snow. Sort of. Not really, actually.

Wild weather days. We almost went out last night but it was so windy and there was a big fallen tree just down the block so we literally drove back home and got snuggled back in. Andy grilled two steaks and made Nigella potatoes while I watched one of my favorite movies, The Bourne Supremacy. Again. So good to have a warm home. I feel so lucky.

Winter is here.

November 15, 2006

Pile o' Poms

PompomsSock yarn. It's the coolest stuff, especially the stuff that automatically fairisles (that's a verb, right?). If it takes you a year to knit a pair of socks like it does me, maybe you'll want to make some pom-poms with the yarn. Remember this conversation I had with my sis about these? It seems funny now that she totally wasn't getting why I would take a picture. I love that. Cracks me up. Especially since we had had many, many, many conversations about how much each of us hated taking pictures prior. Anyway, some of these little choco-pinks are from the rest of that skein. (Info's in the comments over there, too.)

Then there were these socks. My socks of shame. I never finished the second one. It's halfway done. And I've started another pair for him. I didn't know that knitting socks on 0s was best. For me, anyway. Nice and smooth. I barely know anything about socks. I'm not really a knitter. Everyone's making socks. It's very inspiring. I'm too lazy to go link them up here but you've seen 'em. Siri, Jane, Amanda. I want more time for sock knitting. I just got more yarn for a pair like this that Siri made (and oh my goodness if you'd like to see some amazing knitting and a ton of absolutely gorgeous hand-knitted socks look at her photos — they make me want to be a better knitter, seriously). But I'm already starting to panic about not having enough time to relax this winter. Why do I do that. Chill out dude. I can't. I can. I can't. I can.

I hope I can.

Here is my dream. I'm sitting on a comfy chair-and-a-half [note: I don't actually have a chair-and-a-half, so a comfy chair would do, but a chair-and-a-half would be even better], in front of the fireplace, sipping hot chai, knitting a sock, corgi at my feet. I'm all caught up with all my work, it's pouring outside but I don't care. Perhaps there is an apple pie in the oven and the dishwasher is going. Even better, there would be something yummy bubbling in the crock pot so I wouldn't have to get up and make dinner, either. The phone's not ringing. The computer is off. Music is on. What should I listen to? I don't even know. Doesn't that sound awesome? If only, if only it would snow. What kind of music sounds like snow?

A few weeks ago I was spending the morning with my niece after a sleepover and I said, "Oh, I'm so excited, I only have one thing to do today, it's going to be so great!" She looked over at me to see if I was kidding. I think she thought I had to be kidding. She's polite, though, so she said nothing and continued to embroider her puppy with balloons. I realized that doing one thing in a whole day did not sound like a good thing to a seven-year-old. I started laughing and said, "You probably don't think that sounds like a good day. You're probably happier when you do about seventeen things in one day, right?" And she got very relieved and excited and said, "Try fifteen hundred!" And I said, "Yes, you take after your grandma, not your Aunt Alicia." I think my mom has met her match in that one. It definitely skipped a generation. If my niece decides to become self-employed, this will serve her well. I think the greatest asset to self-employment is enjoying driving your car around town running errands/picking up stuff/looking for things you saw once and need more of, as I did all day yesterday. If you're considering leaving the cubicle, I hope this sounds fun to you because I swear this is about 75% of what I do. And if you live in a city with Urban Growth Boundaries I hope you live on the edge of town and not in the middle of it, because all your stores will be miles and miles away. Anyway. I'm just sayin'. Loving to drive fourteen places in one day is very helpful if you would like to be a soccer mom or a self-employed handcrafter.

Pom garlands are cute. You don't have to have a pom-pom maker to make pom-poms but it's a lot of fun to use the contraption. I got mine from Mariko, here. I got another simpler pom-pom making kit yesterday at Michael's, to make bigger poms. I want to make HUGE ones. Making yarn into poms is helpful psychologically because you feel like you're using up your stash though you needn't count any stitches or worry about things falling off needles to do it. And then you have these great, cheerful, innocently sweet fluffballs to string together (just thread a yarn through the centers) or attach to your ice skates. You can even pretend that they're snowballs.

November 13, 2006

Sale Today: 2 p.m. PST

Pho_scarves_illus_lgOoooo, I'm excited. I'm going to update the Posie web shop at 2 p.m. PST today. It will take a few minutes for all of the pages to upload, so please refresh everything often.

This is the biggest update I've done in quite a while, with lots of one-of-a-kind special things you've never seen before. What will be there are a ton of new Sweatery Stockings, Ornaments, One-of-a-Kind Handbags, Wool Roses, new barrettes, new scarves, a couple of new hats, Sock Puppies, Scallop Buntings, special baby treats, and I've now got more POSTCARDS. Yay.

What there won't be this time are Sweater Redux Bags, Friendly Birds, or Cagelets. I am sorry but I just couldn't get to everything. I will be doing one more update shortly after Thanksgiving, and I do hope to have a few more of these things, and anything that sells out today, available then. I will not be accepting any orders after December 15 so that I can concentrate on family and friends and maybe even a little relaxing. But not for long, because those magazines are coming out soon. I know one is on the stands January 2. Eeeek. Aren't we still supposed to be lying on the sofa eating spinach dip then?

November 09, 2006

Working Dogs

Pho_pup_pairopups_lgWe're dog tired around here as we get some work done and try to get poor Andy over his cold! Can you get Airborne at Costco, because I think we should've bought it by the case, seriously.

If you prefer cats to pups, my friend Kristin Spurkland is helping to organize the 6th Annual Pretty Kitty Holiday Craft Bazaar on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Russellville Grange Hall, 12100 NE Prescott. This bazaar benefits the House of Dreams cat shelter. I'm hoping I can make it over there this weekend, if my dogs hold up.

November 06, 2006

Postcards on Sale Now!

Giftspostcard3 Stockingpostcard

A limited edition of 4" x 6" heavyweight postcards from my original photos, "Blue Paper Packages" and "With Care." Includes five each of two designs; five yards of red-and-white stripey string; and five bright red envelopes.

Price: $10, plus $2 shipping. (International orders accepted. Please use Paypal button to place order, and I'll send you a second invoice for extra shipping, if necessary.)

Sold out — thank you everyone!

November 04, 2006

Be There, Baby!

Studiocraft1The details. And if you can't be there . . . we'll miss you.

(Don't forget I changed the date of the postcard sale to Monday, November 6, at 2 p.m. PST. And yes, I'm thinking "pajamas" for the postcard sale and, for some reason, "dirndl" for the investiture ceremony [and no I don't know what investiture means, either].)

November 01, 2006

Bring It On

Xmaspostcards1I love Christmas. It occurred to me yesterday that part of the reason for my stress during the season is simply that I have too many things I want to do, and not enough time in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas to do them. So I'm starting, quietly, now.

Last year I wrapped my presents like this and made these. This year I turned those photos into postcards, for me and for you. I'm so excited about these I can't even tell you. Studio Craft is in four whole days (!!!), and I'll have packs of these available there — five of each of the two photos, with five bright red enevelopes and five yards of the super-special red-and-white-striped string for making tags or wrapping boxes or whatever you want. Each pack will be $10 plus $2 shipping. However many sets I have left after Studio Craft will be on sale here, right on the blog, on Tuesday Monday, November 7 6, at 2 p.m. PST. I'll also be doing special orders of large quantities (100 and over) — please leave a comment here on this post and I'll get back to you with details, if you're interested.

I was thinking about my post on Monday and rereading some of the comments, which really contributed significantly to that discussion. It's funny — for me that Annie Dillard passage has always been less about using backstory to bolster mediocre work and more about the idea that an important component of excellent work is that its making also seem effortless. I think both of those ideas are in there, the second probably less pronounced but, for me, more interesting. Mediocre work — not much of a mystery, unless there's a good story behind it, maybe, and I'll listen to that, if I've got time. Yes.

But the amazing work. That I'm curious about. I mean, intuitively, we know that it doesn't "just happen," but sometimes we subconsciously may assume. Stephanie said that we often brush off compliments, and minimize our efforts when we are complimented, trained to keep our cool about the stuff. I'm just suggesting that, although I appreciate watching Michelle Kwan spin through another effortless triple-axle, I do really want to question it more often, inquire about what it took to be able to do that, and have patience for the telling. Otherwise I worry that I might just come to think of all acts and works of wonder as results of some kind of magic, or, worse, I might forget to "wonder" about them at all, and come to expect such things to be unknowable to me — much as I expect that the answer to the number of drops in the lake is a number I've not only never heard of but could never comprehend. If I took the time to listen, maybe I would. I know I'd appreciate the lake more, somehow, imagining. If Martha sent me a Christmas card, I'd like to think I wouldn't need it to be smudged, somehow, to really appreciate it.

Now, I'm not saying I should get a gold medal or anything, but I am proud of my postcards, I must say. I love them. My first-ever postcards and they came out great! I'm psyched.

October 24, 2006

Just for You

Pumpkinbread6 I did stop crafting long enough yesterday to talk on the phone for several hours, until the phone actually died, and bake the Ginger Pumpkin Bread from Everyday Food. I like baking little loaves because you can keep one and give away the other, which is always nice. This one is for my crochet class this morning. I did an experiment with my oven yesterday. When the oven said that it was preheated to 375 degrees, I checked the temperature on the little thermometer I keep inside the over and it said 275. I waited another 20-25 minutes for it to get all the way up to 375. Then I put the loaves in. Ten minutes before they were supposed to be done I could smell that they were getting a bit dark so I whisked them out. Not only were they done, they were dark. So now I don't know what to think. (Where is algebra when I need it, see what I mean? And is it even algebra that I need?) Well, the bread's good anyway, though I forewent it's glassine sugar-glaze. It's sweet enough, and perfect with a cup of coffee.

Pumpkinbread4 My little "made with love" tags came yesterday from Namemaker.com. A lot of people use these — you can find the order forms in almost every fabric store — and I kind of like them for that reason, like it's a sort of Brownie patch for handmade gift-givers, all of them pretty much the same. I've been ordering labels from them for personal use for years and they take about twice as long as they say they will take, so if you're thinking of getting some in time for Christmas I would say you'd better get over there. These took over six weeks. Not that I'm personally planning to make anything handmade for Christmas gifts this year, alas, but you never know. They're good to have around.

October 23, 2006

Days of Woolen Roses

Sweaterflowers5I miss school. I wish I had paid better attention. I wish I had realized then that I really would care, years later, about what I was learning. I would do all of my classes over again, every one of them. I wonder how different it would be, a second time. I'd like to do all the friendships again, too. I'd be nicer this time, a better listener. I wouldn't worry as much, or be so blazingly self-centered. I remember going back to the dining hall one night to apologize to someone, an older friend, for being really obnoxious over dinner. I felt that it had been an unusual situation, but my friend looked at me like he couldn't believe I was actually apologizing and said, "Well, Ali, you're always totally obnoxious." Eeeyikes. I'd take more pictures. I have so few from back then.

Sweaterflowers7 I was not eager to leave college, or for anyone else to leave. When my roommates graduated a year ahead of me we bawled our heads off in the street in front of our little house when their parents came to pick them up. I'm sure mine thought we had completely lost our minds. I howled as if my life were over. I floundered terribly for quite a while after graduation. I really didn't know what I wanted to do, other than be a student. I had never known. So I waitressed for two years post-graduation. I was so reluctant to become one "thing." I absolutely could not imagine what it was I was supposed to be. I had a bachelor's degree in English, but I'd never thought about what I'd do with it; I actively avoided thinking about what I'd do with it, for fear that someone would tell me to change my major to something practical like elementary education, or speech pathology. We didn't really talk about things like what to do with an English major at our school. The world after school was not a big part of our world at school; I hardly knew anyone who had plans. I knew English and art history majors, philosophy students and potters. I didn't know practical people, business majors, or people in pre-med. I remember thinking occasionally, "Shouldn't I be getting an internship or something? Wait, what is an internship, anyway?" I think things are different right now; the economy is much worse, for one thing, so people don't go to college in a vacuum like that, maybe. But back then, at that school, we were allowed to indulge in the liberal arts for their own sake, and I don't regret that. I just wish I could remember more of what I learned.

Sweaterflowers2Somewhere in those two waitressing years I took a train trip out west, to Montana, to visit a friend from high school who was living in Missoula. Amy picked me up at night, in Whitefish, a trainstop-town not far from Glacier Park, and we spent the night in sleeping bags with her dog on a big rock sticking out into Flathead Lake. She knew this trick: If your friend has never been to Montana before, you walk her out to the rock at night, when it's impossible to see the lake or the mountains, anything but the beautiful stars and moon. And in the morning she wakes up to the most incredible view — the gorgeous cerulean water, the snowcapped mountains, her sleeping bag just feet from the edge of the rock. It's the moment when she, as a girl from the prairies of Illinois, says, "Gotta live in Montana now, I guess!" Amy knew, cause it had happened to her. So I went back to school there for a while. I loved graduate school, too, but it was not the same as that first time. I didn't like living in a college town, where everyone was always just passing through. Andy and I left for a place we could settle, and stay.

Sweaterflowers1_1 What any of this has to do with wool flower pins I don't know. Nothing. Except the sweater-weather this weekend as I made these was crisp, bright, cool. I could smell leaves. It felt like the best days at school, the ones when you thought you could stay forever, when the light on the glass floor in the library was magical, when we'd fire up the wood kiln at the pottery studio and drink beer and roast potatoes while babysitting it overnight, when someone was discovering that they liked you and you could just tell.

See, darling Emily, 23, I think it's true: There is no solution. Seek it lovingly.

October 22, 2006

Scallop-y Saturday

Cabinet1_4Wow, if I'd known that two days on the sofa would've resulted in this kind of productivity I would've gotten the sniffles a lot sooner. These are my Scallop Buntings. I made lots of them yesterday. They've long been a regular part of the Posie product line but they've been sold out for a while. Again, these are going to Studio Craft, but I will be updating the Posie web site quickly after that, and lots of this stuff will be for sale for you out-of-towners. I'm going to do a big update all at once, so don't worry — there will be lots of stuff. 

Cabinet4_1I want these for all my shelf edges, especially the upstairs bookshelves. I like them. They're just held up with little tacks. They're actually about four feet long, with about 9" ties on each end. You can use them as little swoopy banner things, too, like hung over a table for a birthday party, or maybe across a window. Maybe I'll set up a photo of that when I do my crocheted birthday cake. That would be adorable. Or I could see them swooped across the mantle in Christmas-y colors, too.

Cabinet5_2I'm sad that I missed the pumpkin-carving party I was supposed to go to yesterday. I even had my little wood-carving kit ready and everything, because I've been so wanting to make a pumpkin like these. Boo. It was the most gorgeous day here in Portland, too. Well, I really needed to slow down a bit. I've been acting totally hyper for a month, so it actually feels good to be grounded. I'm just sad that our Woman in White and The Moonstone DVDs haven't arrived yet, even though we ordered them weeks ago. Need to check on those. Halloween is almost here and, as I said, mystery-master Wilkie Collins is just about the only thing I like re: October 31st.

October 21, 2006

First in Class

Puppies1Here are some doggies on my windowsill. I made them yesterday to keep me company on the sofa. They did a great job of that, too. You can't be sad, looking at this sweet face. Seriously.

Puppies6The litter grew and grew throughout the afternoon. Each puppy, with its little felted sweater scarf, made me smile. Love Mr. Bluestripe here, with his noble expression. They watched TV all day with me, and myriad bad shows were chosen (by the pups), including such reliable favorites as Charmed; Beverly Hills, 90210; and 101 Even Bigger Celebrity Oops!. Egads.

Puppies12These are all going to Studio Craft in a couple of weeks. I'll update the Posie site after Studio Craft, I think. Time's flying.

Puppies9Thank you to everyone for your tree commiseration (see bottom of yesterday's post if you were here early and don't know what I mean). Everyone is bumming. There is another almost-identical tree next to the one that's leaving. I can only imagine that they are best friends. They're really gigantic trees. You can see the tree-cutter-guy in relation to the cracked one here.

Puppies13I love these puppies dearly. Do they look like they're posing for their school picture in their university scarves? It's what I was going for. Lois left the Dorothy Parker quote in a comment on the post about Audrey the other day and I asked her if I could use it on the sidebar (look up to left, under Audrey's photo); it inspired these. These corgis are all at the top of their class, of course. When corgis are babies their ears are floppy. When they start to stand up they're very tentative, and sometimes one goes up before the other, like, "Really? Up?" So these are young but illustrious little puppers.

Puppies14It feels good to get some things made! It had been far too long since I'd had a whole day of messing about with stuffies.  It's one of my favorite things to do.

Puppies15

October 13, 2006

First Order of Business: Pull Yarn through Both Loops on Hook

CrochetstuffOkay. Where are we here. First order of business after all this crazy house-stuff is crochet crochet crochet. Yay for crochet. I set up this little still-life this morning of my crochet work-in-progress, and since it's Friday, for once I have the proper post on the proper day.

Sometimes these little still-lifes (lives?) help me get motivated when I've lost my mojo a bit. Or naming something, I always do like to name things. I'm almost halfway through the process of re-making all of the samples for my own patterns so that I can re-shoot photos for their covers. That's not very exciting; since I've made all of these so many times there is not much . . . discovery . . . happening. But that's just too bad for me. When I first published the patterns last year, I photographed the prototypes I designed. The patterns themselves went out to a professional technical editor, who nudged them a bit to meet Craft Yarn Council standards. So I've been slowly remaking everything to match the patterns exactly so I can re-photograph it all this fall. Getting there. Bear with me, wrists. I start teaching my Bella Dress crochet class at Close Knit on Tuesday mornings (which, by the way, only ONE person has signed up so far, so if you want to come I would love it, 'cause I really want to bake for it, too, and if it's just me and one student, that's a lot of apple tarts for only two) and I've gotta get in the swing. I'll probably do a night class there this winter, if I can swing it. I know it's really hard for people to get away during the day. It's always hard for me to get away at night. Dang. But I might try.

I'm also working on a free baby-blanket pattern that I'm going to make available here on the blog and in Kerrie's new project. That blanket is made of that beautiful vanilla-colored organic cotton you see at top, and it will surprise you, if you aren't a big fan of cotton, as I am not — this is so lofty and light, somehow. It's Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton, and it's really the only cotton I've ever enjoyed using (though, granted, I haven't tried some of the other organic cottons, but I think I will do that, too). The edging of the blanket has this beautiful little ruffle border, and a place to lace a ribbon around. I think I'll use mocha-colored silk ribbon and call this the Tiramisu Blanket. Yeah. See, now I feel motivated again. Goody. Taking these with me out on the town, don't worry. I am getting out, I swear. These are my coffee-shop-people-watching projects. (They are not, however, my caramel-apple-eating projects. Anybody needs to eat a caramel apple, please stand at least five feet away while doing so. Knowing me, however, I'll probably drop them in the street while getting off the streetcar or spill coffee on them or something else cloddish like that. Sigh. Can't take me anywhere.)

October 09, 2006

The One Where I Get My Revenge

PlaidwoolblanketI love wool blankets on the bed (and wow do the cats love them, too — what's up with that). This is a large throw that I found ages ago, and I put a new blanket-stitch border on it this weekend (great TV-watching activity, the blanket stitch). Unfortunately it's too small for the bed. I'm used to a down comforter now, but I still like me some ole-fashion' white cotton sheets, a wool blanket, and a thin quilt on top for fall sleepin'. I like the way the bed looks without that big huge puffy thing on top of it, too. We don't really have a winter quilt. We do have a delicious red wool blanket, but could use a few more layers.

Llbeanblanket I like a sort of camp-looking bed in the fall and winter — flat and tidy. This one is from L.L. Bean and reminds me of Timberline Lodge or Isaak Walton Inn, somewhere you'd go to ski and sip hot chocolate with Kahlua. Someday I'm going to get this scallop sheet set in red with our monogram on it. All our sheets are suddenly ripping. I guess they've lasted about ten years. I've had my flannels from Garnet Hill for almost twenty years. My mom gave them to me for my birthday when I still lived at home. They are in the perfect state of softness now and I am dreading the day that they start shredding. These sheets never pilled, and just got better and better. I've ordered flannels from GH one time since and they were not quite the same as that first set, alas.

I almost never buy sheets anymore because I've bought so many crappy ones in the past and I am sheet-paranoid. Sheets, you are on notice. (That'll scare 'em.) I never buy them from places like Marshalls or Bed Bath & Beyond anymore because I have been burned by those places so bad. They'll say they have like a 5,000 thread-count or something and when you sleep on them they're awful, or they pill like crazy, or something. I am really picky about my sheets, and, believe it or not, Andy is even pickier. He is a man who cares not one whit for clothes, but pill his percale and he's jumping out of bed faster than you can say permanent press. A long time ago I brought home a very cute set of "irregulars," still supposedly 100% cotton, and quietly put them on the bed. They looked adorable. He got in and immediately jumped out and said, "ARE THESE 50/50??? ARE YOU INSANE?" Jeez!!! Chill, dude! Maybe I'll ask for those scallop sheets for Christmas from my ma. She has been a lifelong very-loyal supporter of sheet lovin'. Why do wool blankets and new sheets make me talk with a down-home accent.

ANYhoo, where am I going with this. While I was blanket-stitching the thing above, I couldn't stop thinking about sheets, and this one blanket I saw the other week at Anthropologie — it's a patchwork made out of all different pastel plaid and striped wools. I don't see it one their web site. It's super cute. I've looked at it twice now. It's FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY DOLLARS. It's $420. And it's only five-feet square, apparently. This is the part where I get my revenge and say to myself, "I can do that!!!" and I go directly to the Mill End Store and drop $50 and make it. You hear me Anthropologie? In the name of all that is holy in the indie-designer community, this time I am copying you. For a much, much cheaper price. So there.

Anthropologiequiltfabs

Now. How am I gonna do this.

October 03, 2006

Turtle Sundae

Pho_swtrbag_carmelstripe_lgGetting it together. Or trying. I've got so many different little projects happening all over the place I've kind of lost track. I need to regroup today, and see where things are. I wish I had more than seven sweater bags to put on the site, but there it is. I'm having trouble parting with these — what is up with that, that never happens to me. Doesn't this one look like a turtle sundae? Anyway, the bags will go up tomorrow afternoon, at 1:00 PST. I do not in any way expect a stampede or anything, but I have something to do tomorrow morning, and I do like to be here to babysit the web site after I update it because I always screw it up somehow and it's nice to get that first email from someone saying, "Er, I don't see anything there. . . ." right away, instead of four hours later when I get home, etc.

Okay. What else. STUDIO CRAFT. Surely you've heard elsewhere, but as I said, catching up here. Studio Craft is a November 4th trunk show that is being organized by that illustrious duo Sally (Shim + Sons) and Melissa (All Buttoned Up) and will include Abby (Abby Try Again — possibly my favorite blog name ever), Stephanie (Little Birds), Mariko (Superbuzzy), Blair (Wise Craft), Sumi (Sun + Stone), and moi. I'm really excited about this mostly because I like all of these people so very much and I can't believe I get to spend an entire day with them. What I want to do is set up my table and then leave it and go perch on everyone elses', chin in hand, and chat. But that would probably seriously bug them (especially if I were, actually, sitting on their table, the way I picture it). Really I actually think it would be fun to forget the crafts, put on velour sweats, and just hang out, too. But duty calls. I can't wait. I haven't participated in an event in a long time, and — well, you know how good these girls are at what they do. I think I might get all my holiday shopping done right there. Come see us, if you're in town.

Oh, and here's a photo of the big light again, from a bit further away. Just FYI, I looked it up on the internet and found that the bottom of a chandelier should hang between 30"–34" from the top of the table. This one is at 30", though it seems higher from this photo. And then we probably don't need to see this dining room ever again, I know. But you know we will anyway. I've got a lot more cooking to do this fall. It's the first day the sun hasn't been blazing down here in P-town. Maybe I can finally dig in and get some work done! C'mon rain! I need you!

Biglight2

September 22, 2006

The Stuff in the Background

Belladress4I put my stuff back in the background this morning. Well, just this stuff, for this photo, because I was talking to Sally at Close Knit (my new favorite LYS) yesterday and their fall class schedule is out. I'll be teaching a class there in October on how to make this little dress. I'm excited about it. I haven't taught crochet in quite a while, and I think this will be a good dress to teach. It's not hard, there's a lot of repetition so it's sort of meditative and good to do while having conversations or TV-watching, and it would be darling on a little one for the holidays. Gosh, I love Sally. She has the GREATEST laugh. And she laughs all the time. I love the energy there. If you're thinking about taking a class this fall, do check out their offerings. My friend Leigh is teaching there this winter, too. Love that place.

The studio is in SHAMBLES. I really can't deal with it today. I have to go to the dentist this morning, and then all I want to do is come home and bake the apple pie to bring to Melissa's tonight. I feel totally shredded by the past couple of weeks. The photo shoot lasted from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. yesterday. They brought some of the major stuff back into the studio at the end of the day, but for the most part, 75% of what was in the studio is now in boxes in Andy's office, so it'll be like a move, like moving back in. It's all willy-nilly. Envelopes schmenvelopes. That's nothing. I would say as much as came out of the studio on Tuesday came out again on Thursday morning. It was my studio, but it wasn't really my style. I told myself that I would be okay with that, and I am.

I enjoyed the shoot, I really wound up enjoying the people, and I learned a lot. When I looked at the Polaroid of my portrait (ugh, ugh, ugh) and screamed because it looked like my boobs were falling out of my dress onto my sewing machine, the stylist came running out with a magazine she saw in my kitchen with Nigella on the cover (thank you so much for those, by the way, Caroline!) to show me how voluptuous Nigella is, and that it would be okay. It was totally hilarious. The studio and I have been in mags and newspapers and on TV before, but they've never restyled things to such an extent, taken so much out, any of those other times. I feel . . . I'm not sure what I feel about it today. I had a dream last night that I was on top of a staircase, a staircase on a boat, that went way, way up in the air, and I was wobbling around on it. Isn't that funny? It's a bizarre experience to have that much attention focused on a place that is so much just mine, so representative of my life; I felt a bit protective, hopeful, proud, nervous. It was a little like the studio was my pet, my special beloved friend, loaned out to strangers; she kept looking back at me like, "Is this okay, Lady?" It's okay, honey. It's all good.

The anthropomorphizing going on around here lately is totally bizarre. Maybe I am losing my grip. More on Prosaics later; I've got the essay from the library now and it's way more interesting than what I briefly described (interesting to me, at least). I think I need a good trashy novel and some TV, and a lot less thinking. Thank God the new fall line-up is starting next week. I will be too busy worrying about Luke and Lorelei breaking up (!!!) to think about myself. Relief.

September 18, 2006

I Did, but I Didn't Enjoy It

Durodress2I really didn't. I'm too embarrassed to show you the inside of this thing. It's  a shaggy, crazy-driver mess. I thought I would never finish this. I did, but I didn't enjoy it.

If you're coming late to the party here, this is my casserole-bringing dress for fall. I worked on it yesterday from noon until 8 p.m. Straight. Without going anywhere, doing anything else, without talking on the phone, nothing. Okay, I was watching TV because I moved the sewing machine to the coffee table and the ironing board to the dining room, but really that only took, mmm, about six minutes, tops. The other 7 hours and 54 minutes were spent cutting this beast out (approximately two hours) and then making it (just subtract, etc., I'm too tired from making the dress). It was a marathon. But you know, I know myself, and if I didn't finish it then it would've gone back in its little bag and languished until . . . never. So, I kept going. If you are a beginning sewer, you should definitely have adult supervision for this, especially during the "pinning down the pattern and cutting it out" part because you may consider hari-kari about 7/8 of the way through (approx.). Aaaaagh. Okay. So, you hear what I'm saying here, I think. You've been warned. Did anyone else who's made this think so, too? Maybe I'm just a total wimp.

Durodress1All that mean stuff said, it's totally cute (if I can be allowed to say). I'm very conflicted now. I could see having seven of them and wearing one every day. I LOVE it. I couldn't get it to appear to hang straight on the dressform in the photos but I think it is. Like I said, it looks nice from the outside, but the inside is a mess, so maybe this tilting could be systemic. Nothing would surprise me. The fabric all came from JoAnn's — I think it's all just some kind of polyester peach-skin stuff, or I actually have no idea what it's called. (You probably know better than to ask me because it's really just a miracle that I get the stuff done, I rarely keep track of the details.) Let me just say that if you do make this dress, don't get fabric for the contrast that is impossible to press flat, like I did. None of my seams would lay flat, I couldn't turn a hem with it, the facing edges are a wreck. Just — pick something with less body. My stuff was almost like weird fake suede or something and it just didn't want to be anything other than flat. It's nice because it doesn't just flop over, etc., and I like that stiffness for the midriff and hem, but still. I don't know if it was worth it. I'd go for something more iron-able.

ANYway, the best part is that it's done and it fits (though I have a feeling this is more of a dress for the smaller-busted . . . but like I said to Lisa and Stephanie when I showed it to them at breakfast this morning, if it's cute and it fits me, I'll wear it, I don't care). I wish I had brown clogs for it, actually. Oh, and this Lisa, fellow coat-addict, has issued an "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" coat challenge — we're two for two right now, but I've got more, baby. Don't you worry. Tomorrow. Anyone else want to play? Show us your coats if you do. The winner will get . . . nothing. It's just a pretend challenge.

August 23, 2006

Two Kinds of Pie

Potpie1I looked around my little house yesterday and noticed that things felt fairly frowzy and neglected. There were little piles of junk everywhere, a mountain of  Tupperware containers of unidentifiable leftovers in the fridge (along with a small swamp of sleaze in the bottom of the veggie crisper where a bag of baby spinach liquefied and exploded, blug), a million plastic boxes of vintage things waiting for a booth at the antique market to be ready for me, overflowing laundry baskets of things dirty to be washed and things clean to be put away. Oh, and one very lazy housewife, stitching on the sofa and cluttering things further.

Potpie3I propelled myself into a small flurry of tidying then headed out to the grocery store to get some stuff for two types of pie: one new, Ina's Vegetable Pot Pies; one an old favorite we've made for years, Sour Cream Apple Pie. I figured I could not go wrong with these as a way of restoring order and comfort, somehow. I knew the apple was a sure thing, and the veggie just seemed pretty promising.

Potpie4

I'd seen Ina make these veggie pots the night before. I watch Barefoot Contessa every night on the bedroom television while Andy closes up the house. She often mentions cooking his favorites for Jeffrey as a way of making sure he wanted to come home every weekend (he works several hours away during the week). Andy came upstairs halfway through the program and I turned and said, "Hun, do you like me more when I cook nice things for you?" and he said quickly, "Yes."

Applepie1We both sort of stopped and stared at each other for a second, thinking about how disturbing that exchange was, and I turned back to the program while he went to brush his teeth. Huh. I couldn't decide who was worse, me for asking or him for answering so. Maybe Ina, though apparently retrograde in her intentions, was just being blatantly unmysterious about her cooking motivations. She has been married for, like, 400 years or something.

Applepie2_2 Andy Paulson often seems to not really care whether he's eating a bowl of microwave popcorn or bowl of handmade pasta. That is to say, he often seems totally happy with either, really, but that's his style — his repertoire of ways to communicate dissatisfaction is nowhere near as accomplished as mine, as he is nearly always content, or seemingly so. Nevertheless, why take chances? Hence, after a couple of weeks of slightly frenetic off-campus activity and some serious domestic neglect, I set about to clean the place up, and bake up some bubbling goodness. It helped that it was still cool and sweet, weatherwise. Sunlight dappled the counter and I had a new apron from my friend. (Linda. I miss you. I thought of you all afternoon.)

Applepie3There are many decisions that the previous owner of our house made that lead me to believe he did not actually live here. He definitely didn't cook here, or make pie crust: The counter is tiled, with grout. It's the worst idea. It's impractical to work on and the grout always looks grungy, because it is grungy. I do not make pie crust for many other reasons than the tiled counter, but the tiled counter doesn't help. I buy those Pillsbury crusts. I love those things. Just keep them very cold and they work just great.

Applepie4In fact, everything worked like a charm. If you do nothing as a result of reading this blog, I urge you to try the Sour Cream Apple Pie. It's even better the next morning, cold, with coffee. Make it for someone you love. Ask them if they love you more afterward and just see if they don't say yes.

August 22, 2006

Stripey Sweaters, Redux

Sweaterreduxbag4The laundry basket full of thrifted, hot-washed, fluffy felted sweaters. I collect them all year in anticipation of colder weather and autumn Sundays' Christmas crafts. I often wonder if this year I'll be "over" felt, and then they start showing previews for the fall television line-up and I'm like, "No, I love felt."

Sweaterreduxbag5Right. That's what I say. How those two things are connected for me is hard to say, but they are — I woke up this morning chuckling at the memory of this post, too. It's no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I love TV. I love TV. If I wasn't already married to Andy, Blair, Ina's shrimp salad, and Lisa, I would marry it. And TiVo. I know it's very, very wrong and everything, but if I didn't have TV I think I'd go completely mad and I can't see how an even more-bonkers version of myself would be helpful to the world, so I watch. And in fall and winter, I mess about with felt.

Sweaterreduxbag7It happened again this weekend — the delicious anticipation of some new shows and, concurrently, my awareness of the potential in a basket of wool, especially rescued wool and linings made from my fabric stash and leftover patches for the quilt (which, ahem, still needs to have its back put on and, oh why oh why oh WHY did I not do this when I was in the full-on Yellow/Gray Quilt Zone??? agh). Anyway, these bags, of which I'm trying to do a limited edition of fifteen, will be up on the Posie site in several weeks with some other new things for fall. I've got a lot to do, along with my other new web site — I hope I get it all done, eek. Pacing, here.

My little product line is changing, and it feels good, I think. I'm focusing less on quantity, less on desperately trying to figure out how to make enough of the same thing before I get burnt out; and more on quality, more on infusing each item with its own specialness, whatever that is, whatever it takes, however long. That's more important to me now, as I consider the world and how I want to live in it, how I see others wanting to live in it, with deliberateness and considered attention. I want the things I make to be what they need to be, not what the "market" needs them to be. It's funny how things have come full-circle in that way — when I first started designing, I worked that way, the "whatever it takes" way; then I clambered onto a small wave of wholesale/retail/sales reps/meeting those demands, and all that stuff changed things, as it will. It changed me, too, and I wasn't happy.

Now I'm sort of back where I started, but of course I had to get my feet wet in wavy waters a bit before coming back to the start made sense again, I guess. I see it that way now, but you always do, in retrospect, no? Not while it's happening, necessarily. While it's happening it feels more like playing dodgeball in fourth grade (switching-sporty-metaphors alert) — I'll throw this one, I'll dodge this one, yikes, bonk, ouch, oh crap! I always sucked at that game, routinely got bonked in the face with those mottled, red balls; my glasses would go flying, I'd sit on the sideline with the other uncoordinated schmoes, chin in hand, chanting, "I hate gym! I hate Mrs. Beaudoin [substitute gym teacher]!" to myself. I'm better at croquet.

These bags take longer to make than anything I've ever sold; I worked on them for two intense days and only finished four. But hand-stitching the lining in without leaving a trace on the outside — that's what I wanted for these. It's what I wanted to have time for. I hung all the ones I'd finished up around my room last night and couldn't stop looking at them, and then I dreamed about them, too. I haven't done that in a long time.

August 21, 2006

The Aforementioned Too-Familiar Sweater, Reimagined

Mysterystitching_1Ooo, my favorite — hand stitching, the blind hem stitch actually. All day yesterday. It was so good to be making something by hand again, for hours and hours, uninterrupted, feeling the flow. I have a bunch of "these" almost finished, but I'll show you what they are tomorrow. I hope it stays cold and cloudy!!!

Note re: hand stitching after reading a couple of comments: Must 1) curl up on couch with it, and have 2) something good on TV, 3) a nice glass of wine or favorite beverage at hand, and 4) a very sharp needle, along with 5) no nagging feelings of needing to do something/be somewhere else. Actually, #5 should probably be #1. Just tell those feelings to park it elsewhere, baby. Or you'll poke them with your needle.

Poke, poke, go away. Am-scray.

August 10, 2006

What a Nice Day

CrochetbagMy mother-in-law arrived Tuesday night and her visit's already going too fast. When she's here, we always have a lovely blend of doing lots of things — and not doing lots of things. Yesterday we had lunch with Andy at the hospital in the new Kohler Pavilion (an incredible view of the city and environs), then stopped and got some new yarn (because it's always more fun to have a special project for vacation), and then picked up supplies to make Ivonne's Rigatoni with Roasted Garlic, Mushrooms, and Chili Pepper (my new favorite pasta dish — Ivonne, you've done it again). Then Andy, who felt he could easily trounce us in Uno, cheated his way to second place; Yours Truly quietly worked her way to nice solid lead and poor sweet MIL got stuck picking card after card after card because she could not get a green for anything. More tonight.

My mother-in-law and I are very in sync when it comes to hanging out working on projects. I hadn't bought yarn in quite a while, but I wanted to head up to Close Knit, a sort-of new yarn shop in the Alberta district of northeast Portland. I'd been struggling for a while in kind of yarny nowheresville, trying to find a LYS (local yarn store) that felt good in every way — big enough inventory to inspire, not too crowded, nice employees who don't make you feel like you're annoying them (or embarrassing them) when you go to buy your apparently uncool yarn choices, or whatever (ugh — hate that). Sally at Close Knit is a dream. I love her. The store is a lovely blend of well-displayed gorgeous yarns, tons of very inspiring samples (check out the sweet little short-sleeved cable-knit sweater on the mannequin by the register — ooooooh), vintage toys and other props, and helpful, friendly people. I can't tell you what a good time we had there yesterday. We came home with this wonderful, fuzzy kid yarn called Oh My! from Plymouth. I'll keep you posted on what we do with it.

Crochetbag3I'd forgotten about this bag until my mother-in-law pulled out her knitting. I made it a couple of years ago for her, when I was in a period of felting a lot of crocheted popcorn. It's one of my favorite things to do, actually. Well, crocheting bobbles in general is pretty fun — why is that? — but felting them is really fun. This bag was done in the round from the bottom up. I cut dozens of 18"-strands of yarn, and worked each bobble with a separate strand. I didn't have a pattern for this, just sort of did it as I went along, but maybe I'll write a pattern for it this fall. I'd kind of like to make one for myself. It's kind of a nice little size, and I actually don't have a knitting/crochet bag. . . . Big surprise. I grab my crochet and carry it from room to room in one hand (coffee cup in the other) while everything falls all over the place. What a genius.

Nevertheless, I was "talented" enough to win some free passes to a special screening of Little Miss Sunshine tonight, courtesy of the lovely ladies at Portland Picks. They were awarding them to the first twenty people who wrote in to say what their pageant talent would be, were they to compete in such a thing. I was very excited when I saw the opportunity, because I'd been dying for someone to ask me that question. My talent: Setting up the sprinkler so that it gets water exactly where I want it on the lawn/garden without missing any spots, and not on the driveway/sidewalk/porch. I have always known this is my special talent, and feel quite proud to be recognized in this way! Thank you, Kathi! See you at the theater! Anyone else going tonight?

What would your talent be?

August 08, 2006

Double Phew!

Fabricshopping1It's coming along. I'd had such a hard time picking out fabric for my niece's back-to-school dress that I decided to take the expert with me to the fabric store, though I knew this was a risky venture. You moms out there know all about the fine balance one must walk with a seven-year-old when choices are involved — too many can take all day. I, of course, know all this exclusively from my experiences with said niece at Chuck E. Cheese. What I told her parents was that, if they ever decided to take the kids to Chuck's, they should plan on the following schedule: 20 minutes to get there; 15 minutes to eat pizza; 45 minutes to play the games; and an hour and a half to pick out the fourteen plastic rings (rubber goldfish, fake tattoos, sparkly bracelets, etc.) she wanted to redeem her prize tickets for. I must say that the teenagers behind the prize counter at Chuck's have the patience of saints. It's amazing.

Anyway, when I showed her the pattern I'd chosen (I did not even consider anything other than picking out the pattern myself) she was very pleased. I told her that she could decide whether she wanted the short, puffy-sleeved version or the sleeveless. At lunch I held up the pattern for her to look at while she ate her cheeseburger. Her eyes rested on the picture for several seconds, then she looked across the room, thinking. Back to the pattern, back out the window, think think. Munch munch, think think. Back to the pattern, think think. Back out the window, think think. Get distracted by idea that balloon tied to her seat could float away at any second and ties it around her wrist. Munch munch, think think. Eyes back to the pattern. Aunt Alicia's arm starts getting tired from holding up pattern. "Arden?"
     "Mmm hmm?"
     Munch munch.
     "Are you thinking?"
     "Mmm hmm."
     Munch munch.
     Munch munch.
     Five minutes go by. I am trying so hard not to bust out laughing. My arm really is getting tired and my cheeseburger is getting cold. "Arden I can't hold the pattern anymore."
     "Okay, I'll hold it."
     She takes it and I watch her eyes. On the pattern, back out the window. On the pattern, back out the window. I am seriously wondering if she has completely forgotten what we're doing when she suddenly says, with complete confidence, "Sleeveless."

That was about fifteen minutes.

Fabricshopping2On to the fabric store. You will remember that she wanted her dress to be red and blue. I steer her toward the calicoes, which are all nicely grouped by color. She grinds to a halt in front of the Christmas fabric, which is red. "Oooo, this is nice, Aunt Alicia!" she says, pointing to the red poinsettias with gold glitter. I'm like, "Mmm hmm, and let's go look at these over here." She's stuck at the poinsettias.
     "I like this one."
     "I like it too, but it's for Christmas."
     "But it doesn't have to be for Christmas."
     Er, uh oh. It's gonna be a Christmas and a Fourth of July dress. But then she sees the kittens.
     "Aunt Alicia! Look at the kittens! They're adorable!"
     These kittens have about as much in common with real kittens as My Little Ponies have with real horses (and Blair, I think you hear what I'm saying here). They bat their long eyelashes over huge blue eyes, giant bows tied around their necks. They're totally hideous. I can't do it. "Mmm, those are adorable. But what about this one?" I say hopefully, holding up a cute diamond-print red calico.
     "I like that one!" she says.
     Phew! "And what about this blue one?"
     "I love that one!"
     Double phew! We then had to decide which color we wanted for the yoke, and which for the skirt, but this only took about four and a half minutes, so that wasn't bad.

Fabricshopping3At home, we discussed shoes. We thought red clogs would be perfect. "Or," she said, "Mary Janes would be adorable!" Adorable is one of our favorite words. She said there was also a pair of boots in the Land's End catalog that she really wanted. Really really really wanted. We explored the possibility of crying if one did not get what one wanted as means to getting someone to give you what you wanted. I felt sure this, as a solution, never worked and said so, but had to concede that it did work when one was a baby, as she quickly pointed out: You cry, you get your bottle (or whatever). (I didn't tell her that it could possibly work when, at 37, you don't want to move your own stuff out of your own store, too, but as I said the other day, I'm not going there.) Some fake crying ensued, her for her boots, me because I couldn't thread the ribbon through the eyelet trim. Then, a better idea for the boots:
     "I want them so much, I'm going to do a little jig!" she said, and proceeded to dance around the living room, the Boot Dance, while the dog barked at her and I cut out her dress and cracked up.

Fabricshopping4I think it's coming out really cute. I should've lined the bodice instead of making a bunch of facings, but oh well. I like vintage patterns because usually there is only one size instead of seventeen sizes in each pattern, which makes it a lot easier to cut. I think I'll finish this today so I'll be all done before Andy's mom arrives, and the move starts, etc.

Then I'll go see what boots she wants at Land's End . . . You had to see that coming. What auntie could resist rewarding a good, pleading jig? Not this one.

August 03, 2006

Groovy Casserole, and Perhaps a Back-to-School-of-Life Dress for Yours Truly

Pho_house_mustardcasseroleThese pretty blues reminded me of what I think Arden was after — thanks to those of you who pointed me toward dresses in blue-and-red — goodness gracious how cute those were. The pattern I am thinking of using is similar to the one that Blair posted yesterday, but I'm going to check with my sister to make sure that the vintage pattern sizing is going to work before I cut.

Dressforjennifer_1 Of course, while I was thinking about it, I couldn't resist thinking about making something for myself, too. I'd sent this picture to the lovely Jennifer because I thought it was something she would like. I think it is absolutely darling, and so comfortable looking. I was actually shocked to see something so retro/fashion-forward at Simplicity, but I was very tempted to buy and make it just to support the effort to bring something cooler to the pattern books. Plus, can you just see wearing this to a potluck and showing up with that cute casserole dish this fall?

Bodendress_1 Then, the Boden catalog came yesterday. And look what's in it — almost exactly the same. To know me is to know that I. LOVE. BODEN. I have a lot of Boden clothes. I think their stuff is beautiful (though much of it is also quite basic) and I must tell you, if you've never gotten anything from them, it is gorgeously made. Like, it is beautiful inside. I have several coats, several skirts, several dresses, and a sweater. I probably should've skipped the sweater, but the other stuff is lovely. It reminds me of my old Laura Ashley clothing, and if you ever bought Laura Ashley you probably remember how good the quality was — everything beautifully lined and finished. Mmmm. Anyway. Will I be lazy and indulgent and order this dress the easy way? Or will I add another dress-to-make to my list of things to do and hope for the best? Can't decide.

By the way, Portlanders — did you feel that little earthquake last night? I totally did. HATE THOSE. I had this little tea set in the guest room and I heard that china rattling all the way from my bed., where I was sound asleep at 1:30 this morning. Andy woke up and said some nonsense (he is a great one for the mumbo jumbo when startled awake, so I didn't try to explain, because he would've said, as he always does, "Someone just got in their car") but I "slept "the rest of the night with one eye open, I swear. Nerve. Wracking.

August 02, 2006

Back-to-School Dress

GreenbedMy niece and I sat at the food court of the mall last week and talked about the dress I was going to make for her first day of school this year, which, it being August already, is coming right up (in "Alicia-time" anyway). It looks like the East Coast of the U.S. has gotten our blistering-hot weather (sorry, guys) and we are blissed out in cool, cloudy, fall-like stuff this morning, so it seems like a good day to start this project.

GreenroomNow this girl, ever since she could talk, has said her favorite color is pink. In this, her room, pink shows up; but there is evidence in orange, green, and turquoise that this seven-year-old is growing up. Man, she loves animals, though. Particularly horses, like her old auntie here. But any animal easily finds a place in her heart.

When I asked her what two colors she would like for her back-to-school dress, she said red and . . . blue. Yup, red and blue, together. A little challenge for the old auntie, not to make her look like a mini–Betsy Ross. I questioned her further on the blue part (red is "red" for a seven-year-old, but blue — the nuances of blue are well understood). What kind of blue?

Greenwindow3 We looked around the mall to find some blues that were close to what she had in mind. Light blue, like the skating costume worn by the girl spinning on the rink below? (Yes, there are ice-skating rinks in malls in Portland. Cool, huh?) Navy blue like the logo on the shopping bag from the pet store where we bought a bone for Audrey? Royal blue like on the bottle of bubble bath we bought (along with the bar of pink soap, just for her to take home)? Turns out what she wanted was closer to the royal/cerulean shade. So I'm off to find a pattern (very disappointed in the offerings of the big pattern books for girls' clothes, I must say, so I'm thinking we'll go vintage here — my niece is much more Marlo Thomas than Daisy Kingdom, anyway) and some cool fabric to make a dress for this soon-to-be-second-grader, one of my very, very, very favorite people on the planet.

July 28, 2006

Night Tart, Sweet, and Mellow

Cat, yellow and grayI made a tablecloth the other day, a tester present for my friend's birthday. I'm going to send her four sets (I have eight, total) of these thrifted yellow dishes (below) because I know she'll like them. Bridget, who herself is yellow and gray, took the opportunity to get right up on the table and roll around, so this cloth might be mine. . . . I think it will be fun for my friend and me to have the same table setting for our little dinners even though we live on opposite ends of the country.

She grew up in Sycamore, actuallyMy friend grew up in corn country — DeKalb, Illinois, where they also have magical things like frozen custard stands — and as I was peeling the corn for Ina's Cheddar Corn Chowder (minus the cheddar) I swear I could smell all those incredibly hot summer nights we spent driving back and forth across the state on our ways to and from school in our little vintage dresses, in her mom's old car, smoking Marlboro Lights, feet out windows, listening to the Pixies and Jane's Addiction, trying, always trying to figure things out. I hadn't realized that the smell of those summers was actually corn. It made me miss her terribly. But the soup came out very nice. Of course, I ate it alone, but even that seemed okay, to be alone with that memory and savor it, too.

Soup for oneI have been cooking a lot. A lot. I have really, really changed my attitude toward dinner, just regular at-home dinner, because of Ina Garten and this blog. I know I've written about this many times, but it occurred to me last night, as I was setting the table, that this could be an actual change for me, and not just a fad, or a temporary and capricious interest, as so many of mine are. Maybe I am actually someone who can handle going to the grocery store and making nice dinners and tables regularly, not just when people are coming over, or twice a year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I noticed that Ina regularly had one or two friends over for dinner on weeknights, and the table is always beautiful, and everyone is taking joy from the whole experience — the shopping, the cooking, the guys who come and fix up the table (it's always guys who come and fix up the table, have you noticed?) — and I know it's all for TV for them, but it's working for me, too. This summer has felt rather chaotic, in some ways: trouble in the world, trouble in the lives of people that I love, the shaky ballcage of change and transition. And shopping, cooking, and caring about the table a little bit has soothed my nerves, even more than crafting has, somehow. Perhaps because cooking's end result is to make other people feel special and taken care of, at least for dinner. Which feels like so little, in some ways, but also the most one can do sometimes.

He did grill the shrimp, actually Now, Mr. Sexy-Shirt over here certainly looks like he doesn't have a care in the world. But he does, I think, and he might be liking all these dinners a little bit. (Note: yellow dishes, as mentioned above.) Nurses work 12-hour shifts, so it makes eating dinner together a bit challenging, but I'm going to try harder to wait for him, especially now that I have a new shoe that lets me walk around a bit later in the day than before. Last night it was getting late by the time he got home from work for Ina's Grilled Herb Shrimp and Mango Salsa, topped off by a plum tart with real pastry cream (my first ever attempt).

Mini-light chandelier It got dark real quick after that, but it was so nice and cool outside that we threw up some lights and hung out for a while. Though I do miss my Midwestern lightning bugs, I must say I appreciate a mosquito-less night even more, and we were unbothered by beasts of any kind, save for the occasional kitty squabble somewhere beyond the fence. The blue jay babies are all grown up and now there are about twelve, shouting routinely at us from every tall vantage point they can score. Summer is halfway over. Have I done what I wanted to do? Yes and no. That's okay. There's still time, though I'm starting to realize that there is an inevitable tinge of regret that colors every August, somehow, and part of growing up is learning to be okay with that, so I'm trying that feeling — calm acceptance — on, too.

Night casseroleTonight we are going to see Crosby Stills Nash and Young with my mom, who was supposed to go with her friends. But her friends weren't able to make it, so passed on their seventh-row seats to us. Seventh row? I don't think I've ever sat in the seventh row at a show in my life. I think it's even at an outdoor venue. It's my mom's first-ever concert. I've never seen Neil Young before, either. Still rockin' the free world after all these years, not fading away. I feel lucky to get to see it.

July 23, 2006

A Dozen Bitty 'Prons

Hallway_2Inspiration struck late for this round of Club Little House for me. That whole "gotta work on fall handbags" thing? Got pre-empted when I, panicstricken, remembered that I really needed to get my act together for the Club Little House deadline July 31, to be mailed tomorrow. Unfortunately, I hadn't a clue what I wanted to do. But all the little scraps from the passementerie packs and the quilt just looked so cute, I thought I might take a bit of inspiration from my own house again and do a sort of "back hallway" peg rack for the dollhouse. Remember this, the real-life Paulson household back hallway, the dilettante housewife's hallway? Yeah — it's about as phony as the dollhouse hallway, as you now know, if you've been reading this blog for a bit(ty).

Bittyaprons4 Then, here, a bitty 'pron with its own peg rack and tiny whiskbroom, just one of the twelve sets I made on Saturday. (I'll probably post the others after they've been received.) These are about an inch and a half long, trimmed in vintage bias tape with a small patch pocket for bitty clothespins. If you've been wondering about where all the crafts got to around here recently, I've been wondering that too; it was pure delight to take an entire day to stitch these by hand with teensy tiny stitches. It took hours and hours and hours. I didn't care a bit. Man was I happy. It was the second whole day I'd had to myself in weeks and I couldn't have been happier than to spend it stitchin' 'prons. Don't ask me why I keep saying 'prons. I can't stop. I had such a good day. I had been feeling lately like I'd lost a bit of my mojo. It was good to feel like me and a needle and thread can still get happy together. Phew.

Bittykitchen3 Here's my bitty kitchen vignette. Unfortunately, I have zip zero nada in the "house" part of the dollhouse department. Took the kit out of the box and nearly fell over with sheer dread at the idea of putting it together. Dude. Have you seen one of these kits? Seriously. Am I building a scale replica of the White House here? No. I just need four rooms. From the looks of all the parts and pieces that poured out of the box it was clear that I would be spending . . . a long time. Putting it together. I don't even really want to put it together. I just want it, ready for me to put my stuff in, I now realize. Why did the man at the dollhouse store not show me the brochure of the ones that were already put together? This separate brochure was included with the kit, stuffed at the bottom of the box after you've already taken out every bitty piece of the kit. I have never greeted a brochure with such regret in my life. Why did I not get the pre-assembled dollhouse? Why did I not open that box from the other end, and see the brochure before I took everything out of the box? Because there is no way in hell it's ever going to fit back in to get exchanged for one that's done already. Okay. Spazzing. Deep breath. Serenity now. Etc.

See, it's like this. I have about as much desire to put together the 'house as I do to, like, reupholster a chair or do alterations on a pair of your pants for you. That is to say, none. Zip zero nada. I never want to reupholster anything as long as I live. Yes, I like to sew, but only certain things. Yes, I like to make small things, but only certain small things. Like bitty 'prons and whiskbrooms, and only twelve. (Barely twelve.) Not a slipcover, not your pants, not the binding around my quilt. None of those. And I want to put together my dollhouse about as much as I want to clean my real house. And you know how much desire I have to do that. Zip. Zero. Nada. Oh. No. Ugh.

Let me just ask anyone who has done it before — let's just pretend for a minute that I am going to put this beasty together — should I actually paint and paper it before I assemble it? Or do I put it all together first? I'm getting conflicting reports. Bitty architects/interior designers, please weigh in here. I need you.

July 03, 2006

My Yellow/Gray Ways

Quiltday5Mmmm. I had such a great day yesterday. Didn't finish the quilt top, though did manage to snap 132 photos of various things around the place. Didn't finish the top because I ran out of gray fabric, an inevitable side effect of the "winging it" method. Another one is my maddeningly consistent tendency to pick a yellow patch 7th. What is up with that.

QuiltdayDid succeed in shoe-horning some red in there, though — love the punctuation analogy, Steph. (And I do love proper punctuation, too, so am pleased to think this extends to my house; to that end, then — a few red semi-colons, ellipses, and, my favorite, the much-misunderstood en-dashes. [And how very irritating it is that I don't know how to make this mark in html text! Does it exist? Please advise. Thanks Michele! Love, One Now-Very-Excited Punctuation Dork.] Does that period go there?) Anyway.

Quiltday9_1I did get the pitcher. So glad I did, too — I love it. With pitcher purchase came inevitable rethinking of bedroom paint color  while day-dreaming/stitching long rows. (Doesn't this always happen? Buy a pitcher, have urge to repaint bedroom?) Thought about all shades of lemon-y colors and words for lemon-y colors: Lemon Ice, Lemoncello, Lemon Chiffon, Citron, Banana Cream, Firefly, Lemonade, Citrus Slice, Gingham. Daisy. Also liking "Brady Bunch Yellow." Can you picture Brady Bunch Yellow? Pale yellow, but not warm and creamy — rather, a touch of florescent, a bit of lightning bug, a sugar-dipped slice of the fruit, just a tad on the not-quite-ripe side. Then, frozen into ice cream. Zing!

Quiltday8_1 Turns out, my favorite thing to take pictures of is pottery. It is very patient, and just sits there, while you fiddle around changing the focus on your camera. As mentioned yesterday, yellow and grays prettily dominated the many ways I indulged in dishes while antiquing over the weekend. Am starting to acquire large set of mismatched dishes without intending to. Where to put these? With leftover patches, plan is to make a tablecloth for the outside table in all gray and yellow — in a pattern more random than a checkerboard — but what? We'll see. Need daisy sugar-and-creamer set, I think, to go with yellow pitcher. Need more daisies in life full stop.

Quiltday7 I was thinking, actually, about style trends in color throughout the decades while I was sewing. When I was busy injecting red into this otherwise very pastelly quilt, part of what I was thinking was — right, I don't want this to be dated by a color scheme that is a product of a 2006-style-trend I'm barely even aware I've adopted. Since a quilt intends to be around for a long, long time (and yes, I put patches of eyelet into my quilt, which will not make my future grand-daughter too happy when she has to mend those first), I purposely wanted to add some clashing hues and values that would buck any style trends I'm subconsciously being influenced by. Do you know what I mean? Even the yellow and gray thing — not particularly original, obviously! Seeing it everywhere now that I've noticed it.

Quiltday10I know my style is fairly precious, and I don't mean that in a nice way. I mean that in the sarcastic, syrupy way that suggests prissiness and an annoying tendency to stick to the rules. I need to knock some things over on their sides more often. Just to see what happens. We INTJs have a hard time doing this. But let's just see.

Oh — and since the slippers below are yellow, I will tell you about them, though there's not much to tell: They were one of my first crochet projects, from Erika Knight's Simple Crochet. I did them in cheap cottons, like Sugar 'n' Cream, I think, and added the felty fleurs on pins. I wouldn't recommend this project for a beginner, actually — your gauge has to be fairly tight for the thing to not turn into a floppy mess. And I don't know if they actually "work" as slippers since, as you can see, mine are just for show. But I'm okay with that. They're too pretty to be anywhere near the floor in our house.

July 02, 2006

More like This . . . Yeah

Quilt8 Right, then. Meant this. Changed from aqua main square to gray. Having covered entire backyard with gray pebbles to good effect, now intend to remake entire life against gray background, like soap-opera set, so colors pop like icy popsicles fallen to sidewalk. Without inevitable regret, of course.

Quilt5Noticed crucial tactical error when hauling piece upstairs to bedroom last night. Not enough red. Sounds unlikely, but need red, or even very dark pink, or cherry, to work in bedroom as is -- currently pale blue with many red accents. Like this and this and this and this. Not so much red in photos, granted, though most every room in house, including one in yard, has red accents. Plan to shove them in. Sqaures 4" (finished); will need 22 rows by 22 rows to fit bed. Have employed strictest randomness in choosing patches; hence large error in omitting much-needed red, and am much too lazy to rip out. Only seven rows completed; second two-thirds will have more red, and perhaps reddish stripe binding? Am excited about this contrast, and believe weirdness will be encouraged by Amy, who knows stuff about things.

Quilt3Omitting subjects in sentences in manner of Bridget Jones to imply great haste in writing, as am eager to get back to sewing machine yet am also tremendous and impatient show-off. Was pleased beyond measure that she and she came over in real life to make lovely, real-life "comments" and lend enthusiasm. Was vaguely distracted by color scheme while antiquing and wound up at end of day with several objects in yellow, gray, and pale pink -- as well as huge smile at rare, perfect pleasure of Congdon-ish company. Love you two.

Quilt7Plan to finish top completely today. Husband frisbee golfing with bro-in-law and obnoxious dog so much peace and quiet in house should ensue, save for constant whirring of sewing machine, and sighing of iron. Expect to be far off in own world until at least 4 p.m. Should anyone have need . . . leave voicemail.

June 30, 2006

Sorta like This . . . Kinda

Quilttop2 But checkerboard, actually, with that aqua pajama-print (you know, the one that says "this one") in every other square, and then various prints in the other ones. I think that opens it out a bit more, and let's you see each print more easily. These aren't stitched, just laid out, don't be alarmed -- I'm not that fast. It was a miracle I even got them cut out yesterday.

Can't wait to work on it, though. Hopefully today -- have the day off. Was supposed to have friends for dinner but it got postponed. Am instead meeting them for carnitas dinner at the park. (My friend is an amazing cook.) She says, "So we'll just see you at 6:30 and we'll bring some beers and -- "

Me: "Wha . . . wha . . . they let you have beers at the park?" (To know me is to know the goal of my life is to not get yelled at by authority figures.)
She: "Oh, honey, I've taken an entire Chicken with Forty Cloves, with side dishes, into the movie theater before."
Me: "Ohmigod -- that was you? I read about that in the paper!" (Actually, it wasn't her, but I did read a movie review recently where the reviewer hated the movie, and was also like, "Oh, and to the ladies in the front who snuck in the cooked broccoli? . . . Yeah. That reeked. Thanks for that.")
She: "Honey -- just stick with me. Beers in the park is nothin'. I have to have a sty removed from my eye -- whereby they stick a needle in my eyeball -- tomorrow, and I will need that beer."

I told her okay, but I'd be the one cowering in the corner, sucking my thumb and pointing directly at her when the cops showed up.

You can see how sneaky I'm being by not revealing her name, or the location of the park, in case They're reading this. . . . That's my Spy-Girl training for ya. . . .

June 25, 2006

Park-on-the-River Quilt

Quilt2_1 The word "quilt" has such connotations, doesn't it? Much like "crochet," when you hear it, you immediately have some image flash across your mind -- sometimes good, sometimes bad! The medium yields as much variance as any I can think of, and is infused with so much history and personality that quilts seem to me like snowflakes -- no two could ever, no matter what, be the same.

About fifteen years ago, my college girlfriends and I were really into making these straightforward patchwork quilts -- I think each of us made at least a few, for ourselves, boyfriends, friends' babies. I always liked the simple square thing because I love printed fabrics -- I like being able to see each fabric, just plain like that. If the fabrics themselves collectively made a pattern, that was incidental somehow.  This one was a checkerboard, but generally I literally picked the patches up out of their piles and slapped them together, not even caring if two of the exact same prints were next to each other. Though it's hard to make things feel completely random, that was the sort of freedom that appealed to me. This checkerboard one is about fifteen years old, I think, and it's the one we keep in the trunk of the car and use in parks and at the beach. I looked at it yesterday and noticed many rips and spots. I haven't made a quilt since the big disaster of 2000.

I've been thinking about doing another one since last week when I saw Jane's new quilt. It, like all of Jane's quilts, is an incredible exploration of color and pattern and ideas and even language, somehow -- that's Jane. I haven't been completely forthcoming about it, but I have a serious addiction to Yarnstorm. Jane has a patient, thoughtful, sophisticated, entirely unique way of looking at everything -- she inspires me daily to be a better looker, not to mention a better thinker, and a better maker. Everything she does is infused with her warmth and tongue-in-cheekiness and calm wisdom. Her sense of color seems to me unparalleled in blogville, and beyond. Jane works in color and words, and translates what she sees and thinks into gorgeous quilts, flowerbeds, embroidery, pastries, knitted stuff, and home. If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Yarnstorm (and I don't see how that could even be possible because I am just one of many, many faithful readers but let's just say), I envy you, because you have a treat waiting. It's my favorite blog. Jane, you are totally awesome.

Thanks to everyone for liking the new banner image yesterday -- I can't believe I hadn't changed the banner, just for fun, until now. So not like me. Well, it is like me to be lazy, but not like me to do anything for longer than four or five minutes. (I also increased the font sizes, but I'm not sure if I like that.) The patchworky collages above, you might remember, were gifts, inspired by gifts, and remind me every time I look at them of all the gifts that blogging gives, inspiration not at all the least among them. I admit I've been such a crap friend lately I haven't even been able to stay on top of writing thank you notes, let alone make individual collages -- seriously, how in the hell and the hootenanny did I ever do that -- but for all the comments, orders, emails, cards, and gifts that have come my way lately, with my very sincere appreciation, thank you. I continue to be flabbergasted and humbled by your attention. And even if I can't reciprocate in kind, I am grateful for these kindnesses in every form. They mean very much to me.

I remain,
Ever your faithful servant,
Alicia

June 18, 2006

Industrious Laksa Saturday

Laksa3 Passamenterie people, you scored. Scored, I tell you. Not to mention you got the special I-love-you price. We had such a nice day yesterday, Andy and I, packing up passamenterie packages for you, together. Our friend Shelly came by in the morning and assisted, and by the end of the day we at least had almost everything finished, except for all the fabric ones. I can't believe how much we got done -- over 100 separate packages of studio bits and bobs. Anyway, we should have all orders that came in last week finished this week sometime. And again, for people looking for birds, cagelets, and bookbags -- my apologies! This week will be packing, and then next week will be sewing, so stay tuned. And thank you!

Laksa4Saturday nights seem to be turning into cooking nights around here for me, now that our wonderful, adorable, beloved intern is picking up Saturdays at the shop. I'm thrilled beyond words to have Saturdays back, because Andy so rarely works them, and we can have a regular weekend day together again. I made laksa last night from the new Martha Stewart Living and I must say, although it was good, I really felt like chopping all the spices, ginger, garlic, etc. and then banging them with a mortar and pestle seemed ridiculous, when they could all just go into the food processor (as they mention, incidentally, at the end of that section of directions). It just seemed like it was much harder, much more complicated than it had to be, at the end of the day. A lot of people have said that Martha recipes don't work well for them, though I've made a ton of stuff of hers without any problems, and all to good effect; but I will say that after cooking faithfully with Ina for a few weeks (banana sour-cream pancakes the other night, and this lemon cake, without the lemon syrup or frosting) I am even more dedicated to Ina's recipes, methods, and philosophy. I am enjoying shopping and cooking like never before in my life. I like how everything fits together, and how I can make entire meals from the same cookbook. Anyway, I see a pattern of shrimp and creamy things happening on Saturday nights. I should find something totally different next week. Maybe Mexican? Grilled?

Going to a horse show today! And Happy Father's Day to all the crafty dads out there!

June 13, 2006

Summerie Stuff for Sale

Pho_cagelet_missmarcia_med_1 I have really enjoyed working on all my new things the past week or so. Being in the new studio, now void of its dust and cluttered spaces, has inspired some stuff that I'm really happy with. Cagelets are hanging around (literally) in all their frowsy glory -- I must say these get harder and harder to part with. Every time I do one I think I'll keep it, but then I'm torn because I want to show it off. I replenished my stashes of vintage buttons, flowers, and fabrics lately, so it's kind of like picking notions from a dessert bar. Loving these.

Pho_bird_dora_lg Another small flock of Friendly Birds flew in last week, too, along with the hummingbird that got trapped in my studio, up in the well of the skylight. He'd actually flown into the studio when I wasn't looking and I honestly couldn't see how he was going to get out -- the Audubon Society said that I'd hurt him if I tried to use a net. So I got all the pets out of the room and left, and sure enough, in an hour or two he actually found his way out. I was worried he was going to completely exhaust himself, launching himself frantically against the skylight as he was, so I was droopy with relief to see that he was out by the time I went back to check. Between him and Maloy and all these fakers, it's bird crazyworld around here. I was luck enough to be paid a visit by my little cat Bridget while I was on the hammock on Sunday and we got absolutely swooped by a very pissed off Maloy. I actually screamed. Now I see that Maloy basically chases Bridget out of the yard anytime she wants to hang around with us. Apparently he and Mrs. Maloy do have a nest of babies in the hedge by the driveway. Can't we all just get along? Not for a while yet, it seems.

Pho_goodies_all_lg Now, this is exciting. Something I've been wanting to do for a while is offer packages of passamenterie -- vintage notions, millinery flowers, wallpapers, fabric scraps, wool felt, old patterns, rickrack and deliciously colored laces, my favored red-and-white-striped string, foreign newspaper pieces, printed papers, buttons -- all manner of extras that hang around the studio and make Posie what it is. People frequently ask me where I find my precious stash, and all I can say is -- hard work, baby! Now, easier. I'm collecting my extras in Passamenterie Packages for everyone. It's a little bit of the best parts of the Posie studio in a bag. I'm so loving the way it all looks when it's packaged, too. These are already flying, but I'll keep doing them as long as my stash lasts. Nevertheless, a lot of the contents are vintage, and you know the drill about that. . . .

Pho_bob_mabel_medButton Bobbies are now ready for you, too, and it's the same with these -- all vintage buttons, while supplies last. How cool is this one. It has this strange yellow highlight. Maybe I should keep it. So loving these. My best ones. All embroidered, with wool felt and cotton. These are bobby pins, for your hair, by the way -- not for your lapel, though I suppose if you were clever you could find a way to make that work. Through a buttonhole. Would be kind of a cute boutonniere for a guy, for a wedding or something, too. Well, for now, just for you and your side part, to wear with pedal-pushers and espadrilles.

Pho_bookbag_pink_lgAnd one of these days I do need to tell you about my progress on the Summer Reading Booklist. I've finished Case Histories, Memoirs of a Geisha, Mariana (from here, which wasn't really on the list but I wanted it anyway and then she sent it to me, that darling reading woman, and I loved it), put down Life of Pi and Three Junes, and Star, and am now embroiled, deeply, in The Poisonwood Bible. I know I shouldn't have put Pi and Junes down (can't say the same of the Pamela Anderson -- though, love you Pam, really!), since the plan really was to get all the way through at least the ones I started (not typical for me) but . . . but . . . old habits die hard? And I might come back to them. For the record, Case Histories was seriously dark, and if it hadn't been the first one I'd started (it being rather close to the top of the list) I honestly don't think I would've continued. Memoirs was beautiful and thorough, though I have to say I liked the faster pace of the movie (which we watched Saturday night) even better than the book. The movie, visually, was a feast, too. Anyway, all that is to say that although apparently I am still a slow and capricious reader, it doesn't matter because my I love my bookbag.

Ohmigosh -- and I almost forgot to say I'm so sorry to all of you who were there waiting at 9 a.m. when I was trying to upload the new products to the server and my computer crashed about eight times while that was happening. Thank you to all of you who were patient enough to stick with it!!! That was horrible. I don't even know why it was crashing, except that, as usual, machinery feels my fingers twitching and consistently responds by showing me who's really boss around here. Not me. (This I knew.)

Update, 2:05 p.m.: Well, the drama continues. Looks like the server that hosts all our web sites is having problems and everything is down! If you are having trouble getting on the Posie site, you're not alone -- I'll update here when it's all working. Should I feel better knowing this has nothing to do with my dangerous hands? I guess so. . . .

2:17 p.m.: Am I bonkers, or is it working? I think it is.

June 12, 2006

"There were three of us in this marriage . . . "

Shrimpsandwich " . . . so it was a bit crowded." Even though I had officially decided to marry the shrimp salad last weekend, I didn't meet it until this Saturday night. It was a very short courtship, nevertheless -- I knew right away it was the one for me, so there was really no need to wait. This sandwich, Ina's chocolate-white chocolate chip cookies, one side of a eight-inch-tall bamboo fence, and five Sudoku puzzles (three unsolved) represent the sum total of my accomplishments this weekend. Think this might work for Steph and Mav's color week, too. Today, white. Done. (Dust off hands here.)

Working on updating the Posie web site today, so expect new treats there tomorrow at 9 a.m. PST!

June 06, 2006

Thimble-Summer Dress

DressfabricDoes anyone remember Style patterns? I miss them. They were really great. My wedding dress was a Style, and many, many of the dresses I made for myself in college and beyond were from that pattern line. They always fit me well, and their photos of the dresses were always styled (no pun) in progressive, not-lame ways. I look at patterns a lot, and I sew for myself a lot, and I swear, for me, much of the creativity in sewing is just in the imagining that what you're looking at in the pattern book could be something not-lame -- because the fabrics and the photo-styling they use for those books are generally so scary. Man. It's painful. But that's okay, we like a challenge.

DresspatternNevertheless, when I sew clothes for myself, or when I make almost anything for myself that I don't intend to sell, I like to follow patterns to a tee. I don't want to have to make changes or alter things significantly, or fuss too much -- I just wanna make it, not think about how to change it. It seems that most people aren't actually like this, from what I'm gathering -- but I think they must have more natural aptitude than I do! I wish I was better at altering! I've even taken a class in flat-pattern design, but I'm still spatially challenged enough that I'm thrilled when I find something I like, just the way it is. Alleluia! Something that helps is to always look at the pattern drawings. They give you a lot better idea of where the waistline sits, how full the skirt is, where the darts are, and of course what the back looks like -- stuff you don't necessarily see in a photo.

I picked out this pattern yesterday. It's Simplicity 4116. You don't see a lot of contemporary dress patterns with little Peter Pan collars like this, and I love a nice Peter Pan collar. Strangely, the dresses that seemed the freshest to me were the reissued vintage ones that were fifty years old. I don't know a thing about the pattern industry, but it must be a little tough to mobilize -- dresses hang out in the pattern book for years, and new styles don't seem to overwhelm the offerings! I also remember when I was in Europe about fifteen years ago. I was very excited to look at dress patterns there, but lo and behold -- they had (at least at that time) pretty much the same thing we did here in the U.S. Is it the same in Australia? Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls, Vogue, Burda, New Look? Did I forget anything? Aren't several of those companies actually the same company, as well? Hmmm. An opportunity there, for someone illustrious?

Dressfabric2_1This time I think I'm gonna go with view C -- the one on the right, with the little eyelet ruffle sleeve and the strips of tiny eyelet running down the front (what looks like vertical stripes on the drawing). I also, ultimately, decided against the grayish stripes (though I really like that one, I thought three yards of it might be a little much) and the red polka dots and settled on this sort of cameo-pink gingham and the eyelet. It seemed like such an unusual color for gingham, and reminded me of this vintage wallpaper I had just been looking at in my studio. And I love those old-fashioned, flat, starched eyelets. It'll be my Thimble Summer dress, the one I wear to the county fair.

June 05, 2006

Balancing Act

Bobbie12All last week I'd been having conversations with my girlfriends, most of whom have regular jobs, about how stressed out everyone has been lately. Too much to do, too little time. I've been feeling it again, too. It reminded me of how I felt at the end of last summer, when I was having a really hard time balancing everything. I know I've talked about it before, but I wanted to remind myself of how I felt and what I did so that maybe it would help me not let it happen again.

Last summer, I felt like every aspect of my life was taking every ounce of energy I had. An article about my sister and me had come out in a magazine a couple of weeks earlier than we'd thought, and I was in the middle of redesigning the Posie web site -- and I do mean middle. It wasn't done. It wasn't even on-line at all, and it was all I had. When publicity like that happens, there is a small window of opportunity to take advantage of it (before the next issue comes out) and you really need to be ready. I knew this, because I'd been in the magazine before; the volume of orders/phone calls/emails/letters and other stuff that comes with it can be overwhelming even if you are ready. If you aren't ready, it can be a nightmare, not in the least because it should be such a good thing -- and when it turns into kind of a stressful, extremely challenging thing that you are just trying to get through, not enjoying at all, psychologically that's kind of a bummer. You feel like you've let yourself down, if not other people. I was sure, every day, that I would crash and burn. I felt, as well, that no one could really help me; what could they have done? Only I knew anything about everything that I was doing. The best that anyone else could offer was maybe a P.O. run, returning with a Big Gulp. I'd heard horror stories of this happening to other designers, and I remembered listening to their stories with a kind of  skeptical naivete -- how hard could it be?

Bobbie4And it wasn't that I'd slacked. I'd been working every day for months. But it wasn't enough, and when the schedule got moved up, my carefully budgeted timeline hit me with full force at warp speed. I buzzed everywhere I went, and my voice took on this panicked, wavery, high-pitched quality that made even the dog whimper with pain. Eventually, after a week at the beach in September, and as the phone stopped ringing so much, I collected myself with an earthquake-force shudder, chagrined by the blatant and rather embarrassing evidence that I truly hadn't been balancing my life with my work very well .

Bobbie1As the weather cooled down and the rain started, I felt relief. I began taking Sundays off, completely -- and I mean, in every way. I wouldn't do anything related to Posie unless I felt like it. I wouldn't work on the computer or do anthing that had to do with white paper. Even if someone called me and wanted me to do something, I would say no unless I really, really felt like I wanted to do that. Somehow work, social obligations, family stuff, errands, chores, and sleep had filled up every single minute, as they do so often and for so many people, until the days were bursting -- it was like there wasn't a single empty drawer in my life.

So I started with Sundays. And I decided that no matter what, I would do exactly what I wanted, even if it meant doing absolutely nothing. Andy usually works on Sundays, and I actually came to cherish those long, quiet empty days. If I wanted to hand-sew an entire sock dog -- this literally takes about six hours (at least, it takes me that long) -- I would. The therapeutic benefits of handwork had gotten superceded by the "work" aspect of the handwork, and I didn't know what else would bring back that sense of peace and calm that I'd had when I first started doing it years ago.

Bobbie3 I think I was truly regretful that I'd turned my "love" into my "work," and I couldn't admit that. I mean, I didn't really understand that that's what had happened. I started looking for something else to do, something that definitely couldn't be confused as "work" -- but it turns out that doing handwork is, at the end of the day, still my love. So I tried to separate Sunday, and things that got done on Sunday, from everything else. Doing handwork that was just for myself gave me my love back, somehow, and it didn't take all that many Sundays for me to start feeling better. Just knowing that I had given myself a pocket of space to play in again was a huge relief.

Bobbie5These are bobby pins. They happen on the sofa, on Sunday. They take a long time. I make them take a long time, rather. I'm choosy about which colors to pick. I put my feet up and stitch slowly. It makes me happy to look at them when they're done. Yesterday I made these and apple muffins (Ina's Cranberry Harvest, except with apples), remembering with cinnamon how it felt last fall to breathe deeply, and rediscover that feeling of getting things right, at least for a day. It was really nice. I want to start this summer with balance, instead of ending it, sobbing, with a renewed and adamant vow to install it (with a shoehorn if I have to dammit!), again. Is it possible for Balance to be a constant, low-simmering ever-present member of the family instead of something that needs its own melodramatic, chest-thumping commitment ceremony every six months, and only after the Nervous Breakdown whacks you in the shins, and you're begging for mercy, and a solution?

June 04, 2006

Penne with Five Cheeses, Etc.

Cheesepasta1Yes, it really was all about Ina yesterday. Ina and Pamela Anderson (yes, that Pamela Anderson), whose novel Star I couldn't resist picking up yesterday while at the bookstore. She was on Ellen last week, cracking Ellen up -- I think Pam is pretty cute, even though her books won't be winning any awards, I daresay. But that's okay because I'm sending it to you when I'm done, Jeanne-Marie; those books you read are just too smart and this will be a nice, light read on your parents' deck. They don't call 'em beach reads for nothing. You can stand up and throw it in the lake when you're done. Anyway.

It was nice to have only one thing to do in a whole day, and that was "get the cookbook." Which I did; I got two, actually, the first two, as you recommended. They really are nice. I wish I'd had them before my party, but that's what always happens. Like, I go to San Diego for the first time, and it's really great, and then after I get home I get the guidebook and read about all the things I didn't see when I was there. Uh duh. That's how I felt reading the BC books, because they are full of helpfulness re: having a party. Now that I don't plan on having a party for a while, I feel rather prepared.

Cheesepasta3 After I got the cookbooks, I came home and looked through them, and picked something I thought I could handle, not feeling wonderful as I wasn't. I picked the Penne with Five Cheeses, because I just watched her make that on TV and it seemed like comfort food, though I probably would've been better off with hot and sour soup. (Didn't see a recipe for that.) Off the sofa and back to Zupan's. I've written before about how much I love Zupan's, I know. But I really do love them. In my efforts to support independent local businesses more often than not, Zupan's makes it easy. Small, well-edited, high-quality stuff that doesn't overwhelm me. Can you believe that the people who work there actually recognize me when I come back, and say things like, "How did you like that curry chicken salad, by the way?" (I loved it, for the record. Good good good.) All around me are friendly, familiar faces. The check-out lady actually came around the counter and hugged the old lady whose stuff she'd just bagged. (Apparently, she knew her, but still, it was very sweet.) They always play great music in there, too. It really feels like a neighborhood grocery store. It reminds me of the River Forest Market, the little grocery on Lake Street in RF, where my friend Jenny's family had an account for twenty years. How archaic is that. We'd go in there for smiley-face cookies after school and charge them to her grandmother's account. RF Market seemed to only have things like Pepperidge Farm cookies and Carr's water biscuits and beef ground in those long, marbled strings, piled into a gingham-printed paper container. Elderly women in boucle suits and fancy shoes tottered around, putting bananas and hams and bottles of club soda on account, requesting they be delivered later to their cool, doorman-fronted condos around the corner, on Ashland. When I'm at Zupan's, I feel very grown-up and a part of my neighborhood, I guess, the way I always wanted to feel. When I'm at Safeway, I feel very irritated that when they ask me if I "found everything alright" and I say, "No, actually," they pretend not to have heard me. I don't really know why they'd ask.

Cheesepasta5But anyway. Okay. Made the penne. I was going to make the sauteed spinach or a salad, too, but I got tired. You gotta love that moment where you put all those beautiful cheeses and tomatoes and basil in the bowl and they look pretty like that. You might sense that I am trying to become a better cook. I am. It started about a year ago, maybe nine months ago, when I became overwhelmed by the way our recipes were organized (or not organized). I bought some software called Big Oven, whereby you retype your own recipes into their data base, which automatically formats everything for you and also writes out grocery lists. They also have a huge library of recipes for you to use. I was really into it at first, but then it just seemed like too much work to retype all my recipes. I need to figure out a better system.

Cheesepasta4I think the pasta was really good, though since my nose was stuffed I actually only ate about fourteen noodles before I was finished and ready to hit the hammock with Star. I like the idea that cooking and eating dinner is something that could be a fun experience -- from shopping to preparing to eating it -- and not just something that has to get done, another chore, which is how I generally see it (especially the shopping part). My friend Sarah, who is a brilliant cook, says she sometimes goes to the market twice a day. I remember being shocked when she told me that -- she actually likes going grocery shopping. That was what got me thinking about things differently. I decided to try and become someone about whom someone else might say the same thing. And I think it's working. I'm really enjoying this.

June 02, 2006

A Midwestern Girl . . .

Bookbag4_1 . . . I'll always be. Portlanders, did you feel that humidity yesterday? How the rain was wet (er, usually is) yet warm, as it rarely is in the Northwest? That's what Midwestern summer feels like, and I miss it. In the Midwest it's pouring rain and you're still hot. You gotta love that. This is my new Midwestern-summer/sleeping-porch bookbag, and one of my favorite Midwestern girl-books, Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright.

I made the bag yesterday, while the warm rain incessantly dropped down outside the studio. I had all the doors and windows open, and Maloy (our resident bluejay) hung out all afternoon on the birdbath, the bird feeder, the table, the pergola, the tree, the herb garden, the sidewalk -- he is always around, every day, all day. I've never had a wild pet before, ever. But I really think he is here to stay. I'm totally into this. I feel like he and Bridget, our little scrappy calico kitters, are very evenly matched, so I don't even have the usual bird anxiety I do with all the stalking felines in our yard. This bird actually hangs out on the sidewalk with a cat or dog only several feet away. It's so bizarre. It really is like they're all playing with each other.

It was lovely in the studio, my first real day of crafting in there since the big barfola and subsequent mop-up. The bags are made of the these sheets. I got the idea for the little layers of pleats from a Japanese craft book (ISBN 4-07-246480-5). I wanted a big bag, big enough to carry all my books home from the library, and a soft, floppy, summery sort of bag that would sort of suggest the coolness of clean sheets after too much sun.

When I go to the library these days, I don't browse, I don't think -- I do like a great arm-sweep across a shelf and tumble as many tomes as fit into a vessel. Not really, but sort of. I get as much as I can carry, and give them a good lookover when I get home. Hence, the need for an extra-roomy bag to carry the unedited selection of takeaways. I usually only read a fraction of what I get, but I love having the chance to leisurely try it all out, before I commit. I have no problem whatsoever saying "no" to books after a few pages. When I was a child, I went to this library several times a week in the summer. Sometimes I sat in it all day, because it was air-conditioned and had big traditional armchairs and living-room-like reading room and it was always uncrowded and quiet. Sometimes I got my haul and took it straight to the tennis club (across the street from the library), and laid out at the pool, reading, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., when swim team started. I was one very tan Italian-American child. When I got home I read flat out on my bed, often the only place in the house that one had to oneself, until it got cool enough to fall asleep, and often that was very, very late, if at all. But I miss that sometimes, too. Reading and sweating feels like home to me. I think I'm homesick, because I can't stop thinking about it, and no normal person misses that kind of heat.

Bookbag6 This bag is made entirely of vintage sheets in groovy, mellow florals. Most of them look 60s-70s to me, which is what I was going for. Sheets that have been washed and washed and washed have that smooth, silky floppiness that is so nice. As I was ironing I would swear they even smelled like childhood -- like laundry and heat and calamine lotion -- maybe it's the little bit of polyester that must be in everything from the 70s. I put a pocket inside for pencils, paperback, and library card. I used lots of different fabrics, and left the pieces un-stabilized, so that the whole thing would be floppy and light. The only thing I worry about is the fabric holding up at the handle points when there are a lot of books in the bag. I reinforced them with weight-bearing zig-zag stitches, but I'm gonna load up this baby tomorrow and haul it around with me and see how it survives before I make the rest. I'm also not completely happy with the rickrack trim, which hides the unfinished edge of the first pleat. Next ones will have a separate piece of fabric stitched in a strip straight across. I think that will be better. The rickrack is just a little too much.

Bookbag13Do you know about Thimble Summer? Remember this, dear Martha P.? You were the only person I knew who had loved it, too. I bought this copy from Alibris several years ago, and I notice that it was reissued fairly recently in paperback with new illustrations, etc. But for me, the first edition is definitely what you want. It's the story of Wisconsin farmgirl Garnet, who finds a thimble she is sure is magic when a much-longed-for thunderstorm happens the night of the discovery. She spends the summer having adventures (including getting locked in the library with her friend Citronella and hitchhiking to a nearby town by herself -- I guess nine-year-old farmgirls did things like that in the 30s) ending with the county fair in September.  It's such a sweet book. I reread it this week and I think I love it more now than I did then. It won the Newberry Medal in 1939. The illustrations are so nice. They have a loose, unfussy, naive quality that just feels perfect.

I've got a lot more to do! This week was about catch up, and I still didn't get to everything. It's so irritating that I can't get ahead. It felt like a serious luxury to work on this bag yesterday. These will eventually, along with Friendly Birds, and Cagelets, and new Button Bobbies and Sock Critters, be available on the site in the coming weeks. I decided that I won't update the Posie site until I'm fairly far through all the things I'm working on; what happens is that I update it a little bit, and stuff sells, and then I spend several days packing it all up, etc., and it kind of messes up my groove. I just want to sew, man. Sew and read. No time to read. Just sew. Oh, and the Margaret Drabble is coming to you, lady Jane. Another one of my faves.

June 01, 2006

Cabinets Happen

Cabinet4 Little cabinets for the Club Little House swap, coordinated as we speak by the illustrious Amy P. This is how they started, this is how they turned out. I really hope the girls like them!

Cabinet7 I was inspired to do them because I remembered seeing Jenny's cabinet full of little cabinets (at least I think they were Jenny's, but I can't remember now, and I can't seem to find them on her blog -- probably because they're Meg's -- thanks Jen), and they reminded me of my own real kitchen cabinet. We got this cabinet with our dining room set from an ad in the paper. We were really just looking for a table and chairs, and when we went to see them (at a newly purchased gi-normous house in the 'burbs -- this furniture looked absolutely dwarfed by their new McMansion) the wife said, "Oh, there's a china cabinet, too, that they forgot to put in the ad, so we'll just give that to you if you want to take it." Uh, sure! So we got the cabi, too. And repainted it all, hopefully making it a little less Colonial. None of it would really be exactly what I would choose if I were buying new, but hey, this was all the right price, and it was there! I had pieces of foam-core custom cut (at the art supply store) to place into the backs of the shelves; then I covered them with fabric taped around the back. This way, I can switch them out when I want to, and it doesn't ruin the fabric. Not that I've switched them out since the day I did it, but, you know, the option's there, apparently. . . .

Cabinet3 These little minis were a lot of fun to make, except for the fact that when I opened the bag from the craft store to start painting, there were only eleven cabis and I needed twelve. That happens to me all the time. So, back to the store! Which is not close! But anyway, I painted them all with acrylic paint, then I trimmed little pieces of vintage wallpaper and attached them with Yes! paste (though I've read on-line that this paste will eventually turn brownish and isn't considered archival-safe, but it's pretty nice to use because it doesn't warp or buckle paper). I don't know too much about stuff like that, but hopefully these won't, like, completely fall apart or whatever. I'm not sure if there's an alternative I should be getting instead. Probably.

Cabinet5_1 Anyway. Then for the plates I bought little disks and then cut patterned paper or even pictures of plates out of an old Cath Kidston catalog and pasted those on. This was an idea that Anna-Maria, who makes very cool, modern miniatures, gave me. I later drew a little pencil line to show a shadow of a curve, but I don't think it was very successful. But by that time, it was too late. They look okay from afar, I guess! I left the bottom open in case people wanted to put some of their own stuff in there. My "empty shelf"* policy prevails.

I can't wait to see what everyone  has made! Amy says that everything is awesome. What a fun project. Now I need to get a dollhouse. Maybe just a little one. I still just kind of want a doll bakery.

*You should always have one, somewhere, in case inspiration strikes.

May 26, 2006

When It Used to Be Sunny (Not Now)

DinnerOh man, I'm tired. The weather is not helping -- cold and rainy again. I'm eating heart-shaped waffles and Andy is talking to me about Radiohead. When he starts talking about Radiohead he can't stop. He's still talking. It is interesting. But my head feels like fluffy batting. Radiohead is playing in the kitchen. It feels like a Radiohead day -- layered with clouds and heavy-ish things and potential for overthinking. He's still talking. Alien abduction, yuppies networking, what it's really like to sit in the car, thinking.

I'm only barely thinking, actually, and my thinking is rather lightweight. What I'm thinking is -- will it rain tomorrow. Of course it will. It hasn't stopped for a week. Big party scheduled for Mr. Wonderful over here, whose birthday is in a few days and whose rose-planting ceremony is next week. I was so hoping the weather would be nice, but I think I have to resign myself to the idea of several dozen people in the house instead of the backyard. It's been so long since I've had a party I can't remember how it works. Perhaps we should rent some chairs. I used to be stressed out about parties. At my own wedding I think I went up to every single one of the 120 guests to make sure they were having a good time. Twice. My dad said if I asked him if he was having a good time one more time I was gonna get it. I still worry that maybe no one had a good time. Now I see that parties have a life of their own. It'll be okay. People don't go to parties to be harassed into having a good time. But I might be being too relaxed about it. I was wondering if it's completely inappropriate to greet one's guests while lying on the couch. That's actually all I feel like doing. Curling up under a polarfleece blanket. And I hate polarfleece. This week has been insanely busy. Everytime I do sit down I immediately start staring off into space.

I think I need to get some food and some party supplies. Maybe I should bring all the Everyday Foods to the shop and figure out what to make for the dessert bar. Suddenly my ice-cream sundae bar doesn't seem so appealing, since it's about 50 degrees. Above -- pasta with prosciutto and peas from the new Everyday Food. Soooooo good. You should make it. I've tried to make a lot of things like it, tried to make them taste the way they do at Italian restaurants, and this is the first one that actually has. I'm no Top Chef. (Yay Harold!) Prosciutto is one of those things that tastes completely different to me when its eaten alone (don't like that) or when it's in something (do like that). Anyway, I thought this was really good, and pretty. I wish I could make it for everyone. Unfortunately, I don't think it will work for 30.

I do need a good cold pasta salad recipe though -- maybe even two, one creamy, one not. Do you have a reliable favorite you can point me toward? The one that will assure total-party success? You must. You guys know everything. I need you. I think I need to pull a trick out of my sleeve here. Perhaps another cup of coffee would be a good place to start.

May 22, 2006

The Camera Is Somewhere. . . .

BelladressWell, it's official -- you guys are nuts! In the very nicest of ways, of course, but honestly -- you thought that mess looked cute??? Maybe my photos did not display what a disaster area the whole first floor turned into over the weekend. They were taken pretty early on in the process, after all. How that much stuff fit into one room I do not know -- that was one densely packed room. It's about halfway put back together, but I can't even find the camera right now so it'll have to wait. I escaped briefly on Saturday to stop by Mariko's Back-Tack party (said I was making a lunch run) -- so nice of Mariko to do that! Thanks, Mariko!

Right now I am so tired and achy I am actually lying down as I type this. Now that I know it's possible to lie down while typing I might do it more often. I'm so heartbroken over Barbaro this morning. I feel like crying. I am just so hoping that he recovers and has a nice rest of his life on a beautiful farm somewhere. Dear sweet horse. I'm saying a little prayer for you.

Cecilycardi_1 Remember how much I love Susan Cropper from Loop in London? When I get over my fear of flying, I'm going directly to Loop, I've decided. Susan is the nicest person in the world. She has been so supportive of me and my crochet work I can't even tell you. I have not marketed my patterns to yarn shops at all, though I really did intend to do that. I mean, I still do intend to do that, when I get on top of things. Lucky for me, Susan found me on her own, several months ago, and I'm thrilled to have had my patterns at Loop. Susan has just launched the on-line shopping section of the Loop web site, and it is as gorgeous as the rest of the site, and, I imagine, the brick-and-mortar store.

MardicardiThese photos are of some of my original crochet patterns that Susan sells at Loop -- they are, from top to bottom, the Bella Dress, the Cecily Cardigan, and the Mardi Cardigan. They are all done in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, and fit tots from 3-24 months. Everything I design is very simple, perfect for someone who is just getting started or just wants to do a relaxing, easy project. I've sent several samples of these garments to Susan, so if you're in London you can stop by Loop and see them in real life. And now you can buy my patterns on-line from Loop, as well as lots of their other, wonderfully unique and fantastic things. I love this place.

Also, many of you have sent me photos of garments you've completed based on my patterns, and I should start a Flickr group for them because they are really wonderful. You guys did so great. The color choices, the work itself, all of it -- I love seeing them. If you've made something and photographed it and would like it included, please send me the photo with the subject line "Crochet Photo" and I'll put it up there. Maybe if you already sent one, you could resend it with that subject line? Or just leave a comment here with a link to it, if it's on your blog or something. If it's not too much trouble. Then I'll have them all together.

Okay, as Bridget Jones says, "Back to the studio!"

May 19, 2006

A Wee Bit o' Back-Tack III

Backtack1 Nicole, look away now.

Remember last time, what happened with the Lops and the peeps? This time, with the Back-Tack Wee (whose name is Nell) I decided to go for the candy-variety extras. They are so much better behaved, let me tell you. Candy is so popular, so self-assured and used to being loved and adored that it makes for a nice, relaxed, professional photo shoot. No pushing, no shoving, no insecurities flaring. Just love all around. That's how we like it.

My sister and I took my nephew out for lunch and ice cream yesterday and wound up at a little tiny candy/ice-cream store where I got all this stuff. I'm not a big candy person -- I like a Milky Way Dark every once in a while. Now, old-fashioned candy packaging? Yes, please. So darn cute. There's some more here. All this stuff reminded me so much of my little Back-Tack bun-bun, though I actually finished her before I found the candy; I thought she might like some cuteness for company, and Nicole might like some American sweets. I know I always like the packaging from other countries as much as the stuff inside, most of the time.

Backtack2Speaking of packaging, I almost fell over the other night on our walk (also to get ice cream -- Ben & Jerry's this time) when I saw the window display at the Red Light Clothing Exchange (where they have one of these, Meegs). In the window? Dilettante housekeeping mannequins with cheery supplies! So I'm not the only one! Relief. But anyway, back to the bun. My first Wee Bunny. The gallery at Hillary's is adorable. After I saw it I knew this was the one I wanted to make for Back-Tack III. My first Back-Tack. I was concerned by the requirements, I'll admit. If you aren't playing, here's the deal: Make a stuffie using one of three-ish patterns, in black and white and 20% of one other color. Add the recipient's initial, and five buttons. Oh, and think outside the box.

Backtack3Turns out, predictably yet still much to my dismay, I am very much an inside-the-box thinker. Darn it! I wanted to come out so bad! But I like the box. I like the safe little box. I tried so hard to peek my little bunny nose, quivering nervously, out of the box, but only two seconds out and I hopped back into the box. I couldn't get out of the box. I couldn't imagine how to get out of the box and still follow the rules. I'm also a rule-follower. You tell me the rules and I'll follow them, and if you break the rules I'll completely freak out and start twitching and look at you as if the Rule-Setting People are right on the other side of the box, ready to pop out and throw you in jail. And they will!!! I think they will. They do that.

Backtack4 This is Nell, being coy. She's black and white with a little bit o' watermelon pink. Her initial (and Nicole's -- convenient that they had the same initial, no?) are embroidered in my favorite though little-used monogram stitch, the French Knot. I love this stitch so much -- it gets all nubby and retro when grouped. My friend Lori said she almost called me one day from the bus, when she finally "got" the French Knot. She was jubilant, on the bus, where apparently no one else really cared. (Why not???) I had shown her several times but it just wasn't workin' for her. You have to hold the thread pretty tight in your left hand until it's almost "done." Don't worry, that wasn't enough of an explanation for Lori either. Try it on the bus.

Backtack5I love Nell. She is so nice. I think she's going to like Australia a lot, but I will miss her. I need to get her in the mail pronto. I have no idea how long it takes for things to get to AUS and I am trying so desperately not to be late with my stuff these days. All pending orders are going out Monday, if you're waiting. It's supposed to rain around here this weekend. My sister Susie and I have decided that we are both going to watch one of my favorite movies, Ruby in Paradise, on Sunday afternoon; she lives in Charleston, South Carolina. I miss watching movies with her. Her favorite movie is Searching for Bobby Fischer.

May 15, 2006

Al Fresco, At Last

Dinner1Feels so good to grill stuff and eat dinner outside! I honestly don't think it was possible to have better weather than we had here in Portland yesterday, ohmigoodness. It was incredible. I actually got a little sunburned. Inspired, we trotted around Zupan's for pre-speared kebabs and stuff, and I made some simple spring rolls. They were good! And there are several left for today, too, so that's not a bad thing. We topped it all off with pineapple-coconut Haagen-Dazs. Definitely my new favorite ice cream.

Salad Rolls
12 large rice paper wrappers
2 oz. rice vermicelli noodles
1 small head red-leafed lettuce, rinsed and dried
1 package firm tofu
18 shrimp, cooked, tails removed
1 bunch mint leaves, rinsed and dried
1 c. bean sprouts
1/2 c. chopped peanuts

     Cook vermicelli noodles for about two minutes in boiling water. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside in strainer. Slice shrimp in half lengthwise. Slice tofu thinly (you will only use about half of the container). Slice lettuce leaves into thin strips.
     Soak rice paper wrappers in hot water for a few minutes, then place on damp paper towel and fold in sides a bit. Place 3 shrimp halves, cut side up, across wrapper about an inch from bottom. Place thin slices of tofu on top of shrimp. Place mint leaves across tofu. Add a small handful of  noodles. Top with lettuce and some bean sprouts. Sprinkle peanuts, if desired. Roll up tightly and refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

And here's a dipping sauce, too. We usually buy the peanut sauce, but if anyone has a good recipe for it, let me know. This one is sweet and hot, not peanutty:

Dipping Sauce
2 t. chopped garlic
2 t. chili sauce
1 minced chile pepper
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. fish sauce
2 T. lime juice
grated carrot for color

It's supposed to be 94 degrees here today. That seems impossible for May. Nevertheless, I'm feeling that sun come through the doorway, and I won't be surprised if it does get that hot today. Summer announces itself.

Also, have you ever heard of a bluejay getting so friendly that he hangs around the yard all the time? I can't tell if Maloy (as I've been calling him) is friend or foe. Every time I go out there this spring, he shows up -- on the fence, on the birdbath, on the roof, in the tree. He seems pleasant and interested until I have my eyes closed while drowsing on the hammock and then I would swear that I've just been purposely, intimidatingly buzzed -- I can practically feel his wings he gets so close, and I definitely feel the rush of air in his wake. I've seen him bop our little cat on the head before. We're regarding each other warily until I can be sure he'll let me nap without keeping one eye open, on him, wherever he is. Perhaps he's trying to keep me awake so I can finish Memoirs of a Geisha (I'm only halfway through -- the thing's over 400 pages!). Lovely book -- the feather-bedded hammock's just so dang plush I'm snoozing in seconds.

May 10, 2006

Skirts, and Sanity

SkirtrosaYou might remember back in January when I cleaned my closet. (It's sad that I just wrote that sentence. If you do remember this, I'm scared, for both of us. But we'll save that convo for another day.) Anyway, I was excited then because I hung up my 47 skirts, most of which had been rolled up and stuffed in one of those hanging shoe bag things, or were just literally flopping off of every shelf. I'm happy to say that most of them are still hanging today, five months later.

You might also remember, if you've been hanging around Posie long enough, that for several seasons in '03 and '04 I designed a lot of skirts for my product line. These were some of the last ones I did, the Country Girl Skirt (with the big gathered pocket) and the Tweedy Rose (with the big flowers) for fall 2004. This lovely model is Kara, my friend and our sometime-assistant at Ella Posie. These photos were taken by another friend, Brian McDonnell, whose eye for a good shot I really like.

SkirttweedyroseI'd done probably a dozen or so different skirts while I was doing them, mostly designing things I wanted for myself, for the most part, and then making them in sizes from 4-6 up to 16-18 (my size). I made all the prototypes and my seamstress made the skirts, and they sold fairly well but I wouldn't say they, like, blazed a blistering trail out of the store or anything. But then again, what does. Nevertheless, it's amazing to me how many times someone will ask me if I'm still doing skirts or if I'm going to do skirts, and though I'm usually not terribly swayed by requests, I'm starting to rethink the skirt thing. Especially since it is one of the parts of my line that I am confident someone can help me with, and do even do better than I can. Also, the amount of fabric around here is just getting insane. I'm slowly making my way through spiffing up the house and that studio is just completely out of control.

SkirtcecilyThe reason I stopped doing skirts was because fitting people is not that fun. It sort of opens you up to a whole new brand of expectations, especially, of course, if you're not really a clothing designer! Part of the challenge (here I go again) of being a small, indie designer is addressing the expectations that your customers have when they shop for anything, anymore: The stuff must be very high quality, very reasonably priced, very quickly delivered, very cheaply delivered (which is pretty tough with gas prices and in turn shipping prices being what they are), with great customer service. And it must fit. And very pretty packaging doesn't hurt. This is how giant, corporate retailers sell (sort of -- I personally don't think consider my $88 mail-order shirt from Anthropologie stuffed into a plastic bag and envelope "prettily packaged") and as small designers with little web sites that we maintain by hand to sell our things (made by hand) we are absolutely competing. The behemoth manufacturers and retailers who have the wo/manpower, overseas labor, money, and machinery to make things happen in a way that raises customer expectations in general -- they force us to meet the same expectations, and, we do try. Oh, we do!

SkirtvioletBut when things must fit someone, it adds a whole other layer of challenge. Handbags don't have to fit, little birds don't have to fit, flower pins don't fit, and scarves look great on everybody. I'm really lucky that I have only had maybe three or four returns in the past four years, and usually they have to do with sizing issues. It is also such a pain for customers to have to return things in the mail that I am really loathe to inconvenience them in this way, but what can you do. People tend to also make a lot of requests with clothing that they don't do with other items -- can it be shorter/longer/bigger/ smaller/have the pocket on the other side/have no pocket/be purple. The answer to all of these? No. Nope. No can do. I don't like saying no, but I know it's all I can say here, and stay sane.

Skirttweedyrose2 I was interviewed for a podcast last week with Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood of the web site Craft Sanity (not sure when the interview will be available, but I'll let you know). This is a fairly new web site that is devoted to podcasted interviews with people in the indie craft industry and it is fantastic. I am completely new to podcasts -- didn't really know what one was actually, but basically you click on the link and then the thing plays, it's that easy -- but I have been working my way through the interviews. Jennifer is a great listener and an intuitive, sophisticated  interviewer -- I thought her questions were right on, and in the interviews I've listened to (so far I'm through Denyse Schmidt, Drew the Crochet Dude, and Leah Kramer from Craftster -- I'm beyond flattered to be asked to be among them) I'm amazed to have such an intimate look at the inner workings of these businesses, and hear their creators' stories. I'm a terrible joiner, not one inclined to group endeavors, not one to ask for much help, very rarely do anything other than slog through and figure it out on my own, inefficiently (and loudly, with much ranting and raving) reinventing wheels right and left. Most people who find themselves happiest when alone, making something, are probably like this (though savvier, possibly quieter, with less raving). But as I listen to the interviews, and see where these folks have been and where they are, it's incredibly inspiring to me. Inspiring and encouraging and reassuring. Nevertheless, it is hard not to be struck by how almost everyone, even the much-revered Denyse Schmidt, talks about how it is a struggle to keep everything going. How, although she's been in business ten years, she often doesn't remember to take time to appreciate the "successes" she's achieved because she's too busy worrying about the next thing, about everything else that needs to get done,  about how to make sure the whole thing doesn't suddenly disappear. (She didn't say exactly that, but this is sort of how I heard it -- projecting, etc.) You're never just hanging out, enjoying it. Really. You should be, sometimes, but there's usually not time. 

It's funny, because she says it in such a lovely, gracious, apologetic, I'm-not-complaining,-really-I'm-not sort of  way, but my head was just wagging back and forth with recognition and understanding and sympathy. It might be hard to understand unless you've been there (and I obviously haven't been anywhere near as far as she's been) and have left a full-time, paycheck-paying career to make a go of it -- but she said something like, you know, the more stuff you have going on, the harder it is, but that's what it takes. And I knew what she meant. It "takes" about as much as you can possibly do, and sometimes, more. People have a very romantic notion of what is so charmingly called cottage industry -- and we industrious cottagers are loathe to dispel the notion because it somehow breaks the spell, and we can see in their eyes that . . . it's not what anyone wants to hear. And plus, they're probably not doing exactly what they want to be doing, so they're usually more like, "Okay, well I've gotta get back to the OFFICE, and you can shut up now, please, princess." And so we feel really bad about that. But it doesn't make the work that much easier, when you love it, really. And it takes not only quality of work but quantity of work -- not just quantity of customers (though that's nice) but all these other things like, in her case, notecards, and Amish seamstresses and their brokers, and books, and fabric lines, and employees, and second books, and teaching, and several kinds of product lines -- to keep it all happening. A lot of stuff.

So I'm starting to think -- it's not just me. It's not just me that thinks it's hard, and it's not just hard because it's me, and everything's hard for me because I'm a total loser, etc., etc. I mean, I do think that way sometimes, that it must just be me. But listening to the interviews, which is almost like having a conversation with these people, and doing things like reading Amy Butler's FAQ page again, which you know they wrote only after having to slog through every single one of those issues all on their own, gives me such respect -- a renewed, invigorated respect -- for these women (and men) and makes me more determined than ever to deserve to be doing what I'm lucky enough to do, and make it successful, and even to identify and take time to enjoy the successes as they come, instead of worrying about what else I need to do to make it work better. Some days, more days, I must see that things are exactly as they should be, and perfectly good enough, even -- certainly -- great.

May 05, 2006

Any Little Club that Would Have Me for a Member

Cabinets1Not a big joiner, me. Mostly because history has shown that my record of flaking out is robust and indicates a strong future tendency toward dropping the ball. Meeting night rolls around and I suddenly can't find my shoes, and don't go. Or I'll dink around watering my plants, procrastinating so long that by the time I look at the clock I'd be late arriving, and who wants to be that kind of tardy, flaky center of attention, bustling in out of breath with apologies and excuses, forcing everyone to screech their chairs back and, grumbling, make room for you.

I think I like on-line club-member Alicia better than real-life Alicia anyway. Her attendance is more reliable, her crabbiness and bad behavior somewhat less apparent.  My current club of choice -- Club Little House, invented by my sweet old friend Miss Amy Powers of the sweet and inspiring Inspire Co. I do love my Amy so. How she puts up with me I don't know. I "met" her years and years ago now, through our web sites -- how did we meet, Amy? I can't remember. We have never really met in real life, but when we do we will be the kind of girls who will walk arm-in-arm while shopping cute little antique towns, I just know it. For now we just talk on the phone. We talk shop and talk life. We talk about how cute certain things are. Amy says, "I buy handbags specifically because I want people to say, 'Wow, I love your handbag!' " Don't you love that?

Cabinets2Club Little House has only a dozen members, and it's a swap where each of us makes twelve little house-y things in 1/12th scale. Then we send them all to Amy, and she distributes all 144 things evenly between the 12 of us. I think that's a cool swap, and increases the chances that you will get some stuff that you love, no? I'm making little china cabinets, sort of based on my own kitchen china cabinet from a few days ago.

For the record, it turns out I utterly stink at painting tiny china cabinets. Oh my goodness. What a mess. I'm sure you can't tell from the photos how many drips, blobs, streaks and other undesirables mar these little beasties. It was quite clear they probably needed to be sanded, whoops. And then I tried to paint the tiny dishes! Huger mess. Paint globbed on every one of my fingers. Everything needs like four coats of paint. But I will get there. We have until the end of May. If you are interested in joining next time, maybe Amy will be doing another one? I think she's going to see how it goes. I can't wait to see what everyone makes.

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions about floor coverings and Dash & Albert. Turns out, they are not as bad as I thought! Joy! Now, how to pick one. . . . Also, is it just my imagination or are there major computer problems happening lately? I know Typepad was messed up for a while, but my email is all messed up, too, and Andy said there were hospital servers crashing as far away as Denver yesterday, so that was making me think it was something widespread. I didn't watch the news, though. Maybe this is old news.

April 24, 2006

"Squares" of Color

SquaresblankieI've always really liked circles and squares more than ovals, rectangles, or other more organic shapes. What I am loving about the Faded Tulips blanket is the I-don't-have-to-think factor that working with squares sort of implies -- making them all actually look square is challenging enough (and, honestly, it's not much of a challenge, since you would never look at a blanket flat out anyway). But since I'm using a few different kinds of yarns, I have had to play with a few hook sizes in order to keep things happening equilaterally. Anyway, here's my progress so far.

This stitch is one of my favorites, mostly because it feels more drapey and less clunky and chunky than most sort-of fabric-making-type stitches in crochet. It's a simple (sc, dc) repeat across an even number of stitches, turn, then again (sc, dc) across. You wind up sc-ing into a dc, and vice versa, and it adds up to a zig-zaggy stripe that I find strangely satisfying. I used KFI Angora Extra for the white borders to give it sort of a modern-ish feel -- I sc-ed an equal number of stitches on each side, then added one more row in the round. I had added three rows, and it just didn't feel right. So, these are the first five squares, and I'm thinking there will need to be thirty-five -- so it's five by seven squares big. The squares seem to be measuring about ten to eleven inches square. I haven't blocked anything yet but I'm hoping they do get a little more square than they seem right now.

SquarehankiesI was talking to a woman in the shop this weekend and she said that she gives presentations about the history of aprons. I almost, almost begged her -- okay, I think I actually was begging her, if saying "Oh! Oh! Puh-leeeeez!" sounds like begging -- to call me later this summer and consider giving a little presentation to interested peeps at Ella Posie. She brings a bunch of great aprons and lets people try them on, etc. I'm not sure how keen she was to do it -- didn't seem particularly keen, but I think it would be so much fun. I have a big collection of vintage aprons, and a very small collection of vintage handkerchiefs that our conversation reminded me of.

Squaresignature I really like the printed hankies from the '40s-'60s, especially the ones by Pat Prichard and Billie Kompa and Kit Ann -- so adorable. I love this idea from Martha, though it seems prohibitively expensive to have glass cut to size, since most hankies are all different sizes (and usually aren't even completely square!). I've never had glass cut, so maybe it's not that bad? I would definitely want to see all the edges of the hankie, and not crop it or wrap it. Urban Outfitters has album frames that might work for smaller pieces -- the dimensions are 12" x 12". But wouldn't a wall of them, like in the hallway or something, be adorable?

April 18, 2006

"A crocheted blanket!" she shouted excitedly, over vehement protestations from her wrists.

Livingroom2 Okay, so, then. This is an idea that has been in my mind for a long, long time, but I have been thwarted by the equally overwhelming idea of how much it would cost. As I mentioned a few days ago, I am so spoiled that I will only work with yummy yarn. Yummy yarn tends to be expensive yarn. We all know that, when making things for other people, it is sadly much more important that we love the yarn we choose than it is that they love the yarn we choose. It is also more important that we love the pattern we're using, and most of all that we love the experience itself, because (sorry to say) we've all slaved over something that we thought would be absolutely perfect for someone else only to hear them say upon receiving, "Oh. Thanks. Wow. You shouldn't have." And they truly do mean "you shouldn't have." And then, the deafening silence, broken only by the sound of our inner voice screaming, "Give it back! Give it back!"

Tulipsandyarn3 Grab it and run. Kidding. But seriously, we generous yarn-obsessed types eventually do get to the bottom of the list, where our own names patiently wait, eager for a scarf, a hat, even a sweater maybe. Surely we don't deserve something as monstrously indulgent, as decadent as an entire blanket, do we? Of our very own, to snuggle under on the sofa, cozy in its Cashmerino folds?

Well, I know I don't deserve it. But I'm doing it anyway. I have, over the years, bought a skein here and a skein there of enough Baby Cashmerino to make a whole blanket (and please note I say blanket rather than throw, as I can't say "throw" without the feeling of toes popping  out from under because the thing's not long enough and that drives me kickingly insane). I'm calling this blanket Faded Tulips, and my plan is to have it finished by the fall, six months from now, so that by the time I'm planting tulips, I can come in and coze up underneath it after a hard day in the autumn garden. It was inspired by these, the fading tulips on the coffee table, which take on a sort of grayish, silky cast that is so lovely. I plopped all my yarns out next to this shabby bouquet yesterday and thought about them. The plan is to crochet up big nine-inch two-color-striped squares, put a solid-color border around each, and patch them together like a quilt. One square is done. I'm so on my way! Har.

TulipsandyarnI had spent the afternoon picking out new carpet for the stairway and upstairs hallway (so many colors when you start, so few [tweedy, dark, and unstainable] when you end). I had spent the morning discussing color with my sis, who is rearranging her house for the _____th time and moving her office into the dining room. Repainting that. I pointed her toward the article about cafe au lait bowls in the September '05 issue of MSL, that little nutmeg-brown kitchen with the pale, matte pink chairs and shelf? Adorable. Not what she'll do, but still adorable. I thought about the value (or, relative light- or darkness of a color) of the colors that I tend to choose -- all very much the same value. All the time. A conservative, too-careful habit of mine. I shuffled through the color-library of my mind for a color that I would add to this pile to shake things up. To take it from "nice pastelly quilt" to "sharp! ". Most of these yarns are Baby Cashmerino. Some, colors like the mustard yellow and pale gray, are Debbie Bliss Cathay. I want one or two more colors that are totally edgy and unexpected, but being the predictable bore that I am, I can't think of what they would be. Red? Chocolate brown? Kelly green? Snore. Help!

Can you see Cassi's little pincushion down there? Jeez. Cassi, you do beautiful work. I will never, ever, ever stick a pin in this thing. Ev-er.

April 15, 2006

The Dog Who Would Only Wear Cashmerino

Sweater1Right -- it's a dog sweater in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. This is how much I love Debbie, and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi in general. This is Audrey modeling her secret pal's sweater. She's getting a pink one of her own as soon as I finish it. I laughed so hard when I uploaded these pictures I just had to do one more day of Audrey. By the way, we did name our dog Audrey after Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, the racetrack scene where everyone's in black and white? Love that. Eliza says, "And what become of her new straw hat that should have come to me? Somebody pinched it." Love Audrey.

Sweater3Here's my reasoning on dog sweaters in Baby Cashmerino. The dog, of course, does not know it's Cashmerino. The dog in no way deserves Cashmerino. The dog not only rolls in but eats any disgusting thing she can find sliming its way across the landscape. The dog barfs up blue fuzz, slugs, mud, and who knows what else (i.e.: worse, I just can't bring myself to admit it, and I think you hear what I'm saying here), meaning all of it went into her mouth. It truly is beyond me how something so cute could also be so disgusting. I mean, have you seen this face? Does this look like a slug eater to you? No. She looks like a banana pudding eater. A petit four eater. A creme brulee eater. Perhaps a strawberry tartlet eater. Not a slug eater.

Sweater2But she does eat slugs. And she throws herself on the ground and rolls in invisible nastiness every chance she gets. But not when she's wearing her sweaters. Oh no. See this look? This look says, "What did I do, mommy?" There is something about putting a sweater on the dog that changes her into a different dog. A worried dog. A skeptical dog. A docile, strangely placid dog. A dog who stumbles alongside you willingly, and doesn't roll, or bark, or pull. Perhaps she's being tethered by the legs of the sweater. I don't know. But I like it. Audrey doesn't like sweater-wearing Audrey. But I do. This face just cracks me up so bad. I am guffawing as I write this.

Sweater4Back to that Cashmerino. The Cashmerino's just for me. I really should have called this post "The Lady Who Would Only Crochet with Cashmerino." This sweater is from Dogs in Knits, and is the only crocheted one of the bunch. But it works. Right, Auds?

Sure, lady. Whatever you say.

April 14, 2006

A Thursday We Tried to Make Yellow

Audreywithball2 Audrey has been a little teeny bit sad lately because it's warm enough to stay outside but muddy enough that we don't . . . let her stay outside. After twenty minutes alone outside on Wednesday we spent another twenty getting a bath, which is SUCH a production and speckles the entire bathroom with mud and dog hair and paw prints and dirty mud-covered towels. I only have energy for that every other day. Yesterday it was a bit gray, she was feeling blue, but then -- presents came in the mail, and the day seemed like it had a good shot at being yellow after all.

Audreywithball We participated in Anna's Good Time Animal Swap this month, and though we blew the date we were supposed to have our prezzies mailed by (er, sorry secret pals!) hopefully they will have gotten them by now, or tomorrow. Our pal was right on time, and sent a pillow, two tennis balls, a leash, some homemade treats with recipe, and a handmade felty toy. What a haul! Audrey was obsessed with this tennis ball until she succeeded in ripping off an entire half of its blue stuff and swallowing it. Didn't notice that until it was too late.

AudreywithpillowIsn't it weird how dogs are compelled to lay and gnaw on things? What is up with that? She's pretty good about only chewing her own stuff. I love watching my dog chew. She seems so satisfied and contented when she's patiently though determinedly sawing through a toy with her chompers. She lays on her side and kicks her stubby little back leg out and this whole thing occupies her for a good half hour. The really lovely thing about corgis is that they seem to have bursts -- burst of energy where they'll chew consistently and energetically for half an hour, then nap for two. Burst where she'll run fourteen or fifteen laps through living and dining room, then nap for three. They're small enough that they get a lot of exercise in the house. Can you see Plumpy over there next to her, on the right?

Audreywithpillow2 I love my dog so much. Here she is, after her lengthy chew, resting on her new GTAS pillow made by her secret pal. The pillow's pinks and green totally go with the living room -- thank you Mary! While Audrey rested, I ran some errands and came back with groceries to make Angry Chicken Banana Bread and Nigella's seafood yellow curry (again). (Notice the yellow theme here.) I had jokingly said to Amy a few days ago, "We don't have anything to eat. Is it wrong to have half a loaf for lunch and the other half for dinner?" Oh, I'm so funny.

Bananabread Can I just tell you that throughout the afternoon, as I kept slicing little slivers, the bread shrunk, quickly approaching the previously joked-about half a loaf with appalling speed? It was like, every time I walked past it, another sliver. Okay, slice. They were slices. If you're going to chow down on banana bread, please be advised there will be no way to hide the evidence (or lack of it) -- a half a loaf looks like half a loaf, no matter what you do. The thing is, this is really, really good banana bread. She was so right. It will not disappoint. Mail Order Clubbers, you have been warned.

CurrybowlThis was actually the real dinner. That's pretty. I have been watching Top Chef regularly, usually while eating dinner. This is a reality show where young chefs compete to be, you guessed it, T.C. (Did you know that 24-year-old Katie Lee, who hosts the show, is married to 56-year-old Billy Joel?) I think I'm rooting for Leanne -- does she seem like the obvious choice? Tiffani kind of scares me, for someone that young. I feel like she could possibly throw a punch. I don't know who is going to win but I tell you, if that kid Stephen wins I'll throw this bowl of curry up in the air. And eat the second loaf of banana bread myself. (C'mon, Stephen, win! Kidding.) Actually, if Tiffani threw a punch at Stephen that would be okay, too.

Oh and -- orts! Wow. I feel fairly chagrined to discover there is a whole name for these little scraps I so wantonly throw away. I do kind of like the idea of keeping them in a jar, as a display. My hat is off to all of you who actually rewind; I just know I'll never be that kind of girl, wannabe Amish or not.

April 13, 2006

Happy my tiny garden with pretty flowers

Tinygarden1_1 Yes to all the above! Happy my tiny garden with pretty flowers. Melissa was kind enough to bring me a book, Tiny embroidery Tiny garden (ISBN 4-277-31144-X) the other day and I got some linen, got me a new hoop, got out my embroidery floss -- got me no time! Though I was very anxious to start. I looked through the book about fifteen times. Thank you, Melissa! What a cool book.

Finally sat down with everything on Tuesday night and just picked the smallest, most winsome-looking one -- my first foray into crazy sewing all over something, then just freehanding it. Very liberating not to have to go through the horror of transferring a pattern, either with pencil or iron-on -- both make me crazy. In the book you see these mossy, grassy patches that look like a layer of green Brillo pad machine-stitched all over, and then the embroidery on top. It's really wonderfully realistic and gives kind of  a cool, very dimensional effect, but I can't figure out what they used for the bottom mossy patch. I used a square of green felt and then machine stitched all over it, which, surprisingly, was not as fun as it looked like it should be. I think I'm too uptight for such rampant backs and forths, though I tried to be spontaneous in the way I moved the patch under the buzzing needle. Apparently I'm not too uptight to actually square the patch up to the grain of the fabric -- everything is actually on about a 45-degree angle, which will make stretching it or framing it or whatever very . . . interesting. Uh, duh.

Tinygarden2_1 I love foxgloves, and I could hardly wait to get to that part, though there was a lot to do before I got there. (Hint: Start the green grass stuff in the top right corner and work your way down to the bottom left, so it layers properly. By the way, I feel like I saw one of these on someone's blog recently, but can't remember whose. Do you know?) Anyway, believe it or not, I could've finished it one night, I think, except that I had to concentrate so hard on what was happening in Veronica Mars I left the finishing bits until last night. But this really was so quick to do, and I am rather charmed by the sort of willowy, fresh result -- it feels like a sweet, leggy little meadow patch. And it truly is tiny -- probably not even 4" x 6".

Last week I also finally called Katherine Shaughnessy from Wool and Hoop to order her fabulous crewel kits for the store. She had been on my list of product lines to carry at Ella Posie forever, and though we had exchanged emails last fall, I had never talked to her in person. She lives in Texas, but I detected the echo of a Chicago accent in her voice (music to my ears), and we discovered that her hubby and I were classmates 5th through 12th grade back in the 'burbs, and lived just blocks from each other. How random is that. Anyway, her fantastic, tiny kits should be arriving any day -- they might actually be there now, so I'll have them priced and out tomorrow -- and I am psyched to make one up as a sample for the shop. I forgot how much I love to embroider stuff. Her designs are really sophisticated and mod. Colorful. I can't wait. It's even more fun knowing that she is sort of "from" the old neighborhood.

Last spring, or maybe it was the spring before, I can't even remember, I went through all my bags and boxes and little plastic boxes and drawers and found every skein of embroidery floss that I had bought over the last twenty years. I was determined to get it organized and rewound; there is nothing worse than all those floppy skeins in a big mass, or tangled on some piece of slotted cardboard, etc. Every time I wanted to make something my efforts were fraught with the tantrum of finding then untangling the flipping floss first. So, one by one, I wound them onto plastic bobbins.

Floss This was not a quick project. No. Not. At. All. There are some who would look at embroidery, at the process of pulling little pieces of thread through cloth with the needle, and say, "But, why?" We scoff at them, of course, the unenlightened, though in the middle of this process I, too, would've looked upon myself, covered in floss and bobbins and plastic boxes and shouted, fists shaking, "But why why why WHY?"

Nevertheless, I must say that the result has made every bit of hand sewing or embroidery I've done since very pleasureable. It feels good to know that everything is in its place. If I cut off a piece of floss, and only use two strands, I don't even bother to rewind the other four strands on the bobbin. Oh no. I throw it away. I do. Wantonly, recklessly throw it away. But you know, it keeps me going forward. If I thought I had to stop and rewind all those twisted pieces of thread back on  their blah blah, etc. -- ugh. Might not want to do any of it at all. So, I say, recycle cans, plastic bags, cardboard, bottles -- liberate yourself and throw the other four strands away. Unless you're a glutton for punishment, then, you know, reduce, reuse, recycle, rewind, crazy girl.

Oh and, started my first of the list, Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, last night. You were right -- not easy to put down, just the way I like 'em.

April 05, 2006

Shhh! Cagelets (and Aprons) on Sale Right Now!

Pho_cage_mrspeachpie_med Um, yay! Cagelets are on sale now on the Posie web site, as are the aprons named Alice.

If you've already ordered a bun-bun or a birdie and you find yourself in need of a cagelet or apron, just go ahead and place your order through Paypal and I'll refund the extra shipping cost, and ship everything together.

Please note that I have to remove all items manually from the site when they sell, and if two people order something at the same time, before I can remove the item, the second person whose order comes through will want to strangle me because they'll be too late, but I beg you -- have mercy! I'll let you know right away if this has happened, and we'll figure something out, don't worry. Please refresh the pages often, so they update and show you the most current offerings.

I'm not sure how many more cagelets there will be in the future, but more aprons will be coming.

I'll ship internationally, yes. But please place all orders through the Posie site (via Paypal). 'Kay? Thanks! Now hurry!

Update: All cagelets and aprons have been sold, but please stay tuned for more, if you missed these. Thank you!!!

April 04, 2006

Chirps of Another Feather

Pho_bird_dandelion_lgThe bun-buns wanted me to thank everyone, most sincerely, for adopting nine of them yesterday -- there are still two left, to keep each other company, but they would be happy to go, too, I'm sure -- because as much as I hate to admit it, they really aren't happy here. Too much barking, too much television, too much talking on the phone, too much hissing of cats and cheeping of peeps, just too much commotion. I really don't blame them.

The birds, on the other hand, they have a very "be here now" sort of Zen thing going on, and they couldn't give a tweet what I do, or anyone else does, so we like that, about the birds. Eight more have come to roost for a bit, and they are now on the site.

Pho_bird_bridie_med I really felt like I was camera challenged yesterday. Some days, you know, everything just goes beautifully, and it almost seems like the photos that come back look better than things did in real life. Some days, you upload the shots and your mouth just hangs open because you feel like you didn't "see" any of that, and yet, luckily, there it is. Other days, like yesterday, no matter what you do you can't get the shot to happen the way you want. I mean, things are okay, eventually, with a lot of Photoshopping (thank you, inventor of Photoshop, from all of your rainy Portland devotees) but I'm starting to think that the light outside has everything to do with why or why not something looks good or bad. I mean, it doesn't seem that different to me, but it's the only thing I can think, everything else being consistent. . . .

Pho_bird_rosie_lgToday it looks like it might be sunny, and I have the next two weekends off entirely, for which I am overjoyed. I've been working a lot, both at home and at the shop. I don't really know how one hour of daylight savings time can throw the whole universe out of whack, but it feels like that to me every single time we spin the clocks forward or backward sixty minutes. For days, every clock I look at plays coy -- is that the "right" time or the "real" time, and why is it always later than I thought? A whole day of not looking at the clock at all, of reading on the featherbed with a cat tucked under each arm and a vanilla milkshake at my side sounds like a dream come true.

April 03, 2006

English Lops

Pho_bun_millie_med Sorry to have left you with that obnoxious, show-offy "look at all my prezzies!" post for the weekend, but I do so love to brag about you, dear peeps! I took some much-needed time away from the computer this weekend to do a little hand-sewing, fabric painting, and paper-mache-ing, and the first to be completed are these baby English lop-eared bun-buns, who've just finished their first photo shoot, which got a little hairy.

Pho_bun_mickie_lg_1 It all started innocently enough, though it's a super cloudy morning and we struggled to scout out a sufficiently bright location. Eventually we went back to the guest room, and then remembered some chocolate eggs we could use for props, a one-pound bag of which we swore we'd just seen on Friday night.  Alas, the chocoholic hubbers apparently had a severe choco-attack in the four and a half minutes he was actually home and not working this weekend, and all we could find were about eight grubby eggs in a teacup on the end table next to his chair.

Pho_bun_bonne_lg_2So we thought we'd invite a few pom-pom peeps to join us. Oh -- talk about obnoxious! You think I'm bad! Things went from okay, to bad, to out of control. Who knew the peeps were such camera hogs!!! The lops waited patiently in line for their turn in front of the lens, no pushing, no shoving, no noise (do bunnies make noise?), no "I'm cuter than you!" stuff at all. I mean, I don't know if it's just these particular bunnies that are sweet and docile or if it's a trait common among the English lops (are the Dutch and French lops so well-behaved? Maybe the Dutch, but probably not the French, right Corey?). But these dear buns just patiently waited their turns, tails wagging happily, as the pom-pom peeps cheeeeeped and shoved around them!

Pho_bun_aggie_lg_1 The first couple of shots were okay, but then it was like -- I don't know how they managed it, but their numbers multiplied before our eyes. There were peeps on heads and peeps in bowls. There were peeps fallen over from the sheer stress of wanting to be famous. What freaks! By the time sweet flop-eared little Aggie had her turn I had completely lost control of the situation and chaos reigned. Look how worried and skeptical she looks here! I feel so bad. I tried to reassure the buns that everyone did a great job and everything, and I sincerely apologized for the extras, but I'm not sure they bought it. I think they could all use a little quiet time in the hutch for the rest of the morning. They'll make their debut a little later on the Posie web site, and by that time I'm sure everyone will have calmed down. I hope.

March 30, 2006

Alice Aprons

Apronstilllife8Pheeeew. Four done! So, I'll tell you about them.

These are simple aprons that tie in back, and have two silkscreened patch pockets. The pocket on your left has a quote from one of my favorite books, Little, Big. It says:

I will live in a house
By the side of the road
And be a friend to all.

In Little, Big, the quote appears stitched on a sampler in one of the character's living rooms. In the book, below the verse, are the words "Margaret Juniper 1927." I was excited when we bought our house and found it was built in 1927, because I knew of the verse long before and had always remembered it. It's modified from a charming poem by Sam Walter Foss, written in late 1800s.

Apronrpocketdetail The pocket on the right has a drawing of a little house that was inspired by the book The Little House and a vintage greeting card I've had around forever (and it's similar to the cottage-y symmetry of my own house, with the pointy thing in front). The details are hand painted, and the little flowers in front are actually done in puff paint! I love puff paint. It has sort of a bad reputation, and you can really make some ugly stuff with it, but I love it and use it all the time to make little signs and stuff for the shop. It adds a shiny, dimensional effect to things.

ApronminnieHere's a tip if you are inclined to sew rounded-corner pockets onto something flat like this. Run a bit of straight stitching (just use the machine) around each corner -- I kept my tension the same as when regular sewing because these are very short rows of stitching, and if they're too loose they don't hold up properly. Then gather the corner just a bit, so it puckers. This will pull in the extra fabric and allow you to turn the hem under easily. Then press it flat, pin it like crazy, and stitch, very carefully, as close to the edge of the pocket as possible. I also backstitched onto the apron itself at the top edges of the pockets where they meet the apron, since this is a place of tension, caused by hands going in and out, and I felt it needed a bit of extra support.

The bottom "banner" is patchworked strips, much like the Pinafore handbags. Some of the aprons have eyelet ruffles on the hems, when it seemed like the thing to do.

Apronmollie I'm interested in how so many vintage aprons seem fascinatingly fussy. For such a seemingly "practical" garment, it's amazing how many old ones you find that are made of things like organza, and lace, and have ruffles, and really fancy embroidery. It's clear that aprons were expressive of the skills and tastes and creativity of their owners -- what does it say that so many contemporary aprons are so boring, just that plain canvas and a D-ring neck-strap! I was just going for sweet, pretty, and happy, with a few nostalgic references to those fancier ones of yore. It's so cool that aprons are coming back into fashion. I've been trying to get away with taking them outside the house since I saw Jennifer Connelly wearing one so adorably in one of my favorite 1988 VHS-only movies, the quirky Some Girls (and if you like Patrick Dempsey, he's in this, too). I copied many of her clothes from this movie when I was in college -- I thought she had the perfect wardrobe here. Anyway, I'm excited to wear one of these to work tomorrow. They're vaguely practical, but I imagine they're really mostly for the dilettante cupcake baker.

Anyway, I'm happy about these, and relieved that my idea worked the way I was hoping. These will go directly onto the web site when I've got a dozen or so finished. I've got a lot more to make, so I'd better go!

Oh wait -- forgot to say thank you to everyone who went over to Whip Up yesterday and gave me a shout-out over there -- how nice of you! It made me feel so good to read all those comments, especially the funny stories about your own naming dilemmas. As far as my advice on specific names goes, mmmm, believe me, you don't want my advice. Pudding and a homonym, remember.

This is one of those hard choices in life that every woman must make for herself.

March 27, 2006

It's All About the Blog

ThreecollagesI'm so sorry, I have to show you these again, and I'm especially sorry to yammer on again the way you know I'm about to, but I'll just do it really quick and then I promise I am going to get on with my life. It's just, I really love them and it is hard to let them go, although all 22 are sitting, packed in their boxes, waiting for their address labels, which will happen today if it's the last thing I do, so really, they're gone. But there were just a couple things I wanted to say about them collectively before they go.

OnecollageI sent my college (college, not collage) roommate a link to the engagement post from a couple of weeks ago, asking her if she remembered the surprise party they threw for me where I went to the bathroom with the door open while talking about everyone who was hiding only feet away, etc. Yes, she remembered. She also had never seen a blog before (I don't think) because she said, and I quote (sorry Martha, it was too funny), "WHO ARE ALL THOSE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT YOUR STORY?!?!?!?!" I was like, "Um, well, they're my blog buddies. I'm not really sure how they got here. But aren't they sooooo nice?" Yes, they are! I told her, of course, that now it was only a matter of mere moments until she had a blog herself because, you know, that's what happens.

And at first I was thinking that what happens on the computer is different than what happens in real life. But now I'm not sure. Behind every computer is a heart, and blogs are like their secret decoder rings. It doesn't matter how you write, or what you say, or what you make; it's all good if it's coming from the heart. Amy was so right. I really hadn't thought about hearts very much before. I mean, I don't know what I was thinking of, but I don't think it was hearts. I know for certain that I was never encouraged to think about hearts, and I was certainly yelled at for wearing mine on my sleeve, those times when I just couldn't help it. Now I feel like I think about them all the time. When I feel crappy about the world, or my neighborhood, or myself, I try and remember all the hearts.

CollagecloseupSo, I'm not sure if I was explicit enough about what these really are, but they're thank you gifts to reciprocate all the sweet presents that have come to me since I started blogging -- both the kind that come wrapped in boxes, with postage, as well as the kind that are harder to contain: the generosity of quiet listeners, the e-mail humor inspired by crazy days and common problems, the countless times I've been startled by reminders of the sisterhood we all share across thousands of miles, many countries, and a million differences. For me, the grid represents a sort of calendar, each little installation represents a "post" containing a few little curated things. Collectively, the squares add up, and say thank you, for sharing. So, these are not for sale, though eventually some version of them might be because, let's face it, they are fun to make, but I do apologize to those of you who have come looking for them at the shop, etc. If I could make one for every single one of you, I truly would.

Do I talk about this stuff too much? I know I do. I'm so sorry!!! I TELL YOU I CANNOT HELP IT PEOPLE. It's all changed me so much. I think I'm getting it now, though. A little slow. We'll get back to business in a sec. I think everyone should have a blog. The only bad thing about it is that it's really cut into my busy TV-watching schedule, which, you know, some loons would say was a good thing. . . . Oh, and it's increased the delusion that anyone gives a rat's ass what I think, but you know, I already had that going on before, even without an audience.

March 22, 2006

Where She Severs Her Intimate Relationship with the 8"x8" Canvas

Collage1Oh, but I'll miss you, my dears. For four days it's been paint, patch, and paste as I cobbled together these little tiles of appreciation I mentioned I was starting on Saturday. Never one to take on a project unless said project grew to such proportions as to inspire dread and disorder for days and dozens of square feet in every direction, I made 22. Oh, just say it. It's been said before. It'll be said again. Psycho.

These made too much of a mess and took up too much space (cats, gingerly and not-so-gingerly, suddenly find sitting on the mantle on a collage impossible not to do; tricky scattering a cat without scattering a still-wet collage, let me tell you) to complete in anything less than record time, though oh! did I ever have fun with them! But every flat surface in the house has held a collage the past few days and some residents are complaining. Though they complain anyway. I opened the front door to get some light on the floor where these were set up to be photographed and Bridget (who was outside) and Violet (who was inside) started punching each other through the screen, along with a most violent display of hissing. These cats are so mean to each other it's just freakish; they've lived together for six years. Violet, the twelve-year-old, is just getting irritated with everything in general. She's decided she will only eat "wet" food out of those little foil pouches, or sometimes, in a pinch, cans. So around our house you will routinely see either one of the adults careening through the hallways or kitchen screaming, "Move! Move! Move! I got it on me! " and by "it" they mean "cat food," and these adults are not squeamish, and one is even a medical professional, who presumably has much more disgusting things on his hands on a daily basis, but no, it seems cat food is the pinnacle of total grossness which requires pushing anything in one's way out of the way on the way to the faucet. I told him to bring home a box of latex gloves so we didn't have to fight over who had to feed the pets.

But anyway, as usual, I digress. Here are my collages. You knew I wouldn't be able to wait, didn't you.

March 21, 2006

How Much Stuff Fits on a Coffee Table

Mess1By the dawn's early light, evidence of a late night at the crafting coffee table remains. Ugh. The weekend's happy muttering-puttering turned into yesterday's aimless and bewildered attempts to catch up on what I should have been doing over the weekend, and lasted well into the night (while watching our favorite show, Midsomer Murders. Englishwomen, is this show popular in England? Is John Nettles a superstar? He is our favorite . Love him! Also, should one really be terrified to enter small, seemingly bucolic English villages? It seems so! Please advise). Anyway, I'm officially behind, trying not to panic. The thing about selling what you make is that, you know, once it sells, you need to make more. And before you make more, you've gotta pack up the things that sold and ship them. And though I feel like I'm actually not slow at this, I also feel like I can't get on top of it, and I live in constant fear of someone calling me and yelling at me because it's taking me a week to get their package out. No one's ever actually called me and yelled at me for that, but I never, ever stop thinking that it will happen. I took an hour and sat crocheting tiny stripes on something I'm working on for the pet swap that Anna is organizing, chanting "Serenity now!" all the while, but I'm not sure it worked. Maybe it was the exclamation point I put on the end that defeated the message of the command's content. Serenity now? Please? Or "Serenity; now pack this and tape that and wrap this." Anyway.

I'm off to the shop today, and lots is going on there. Eli Halpin, one of our most beloved Portland painters, is finally moving to Baltimore to open a health food store, and coming to get all of her work that's been on consignment in the shop. She is the cutest girl, with these long wavy blond ponytails with big flowers on top of each one. She rides around town on a vintage bike with a flower-bedecked bicycle basket, too. She must be in her early twenties, and supports herself by selling her paintings. Huge paintings, some of them. I'm so sad to see her go. We're also advertising for an intern through the Art Institute of Portland to help us in the shop through spring and summer, which, if it works out, will be a relief. There are so many different things to help with, if one was inclined, so many ways we could use a fresh set of eyes and hands, and so many things for them to learn about; it can be a really good experience for everyone. Here's hoping.

Alice Aprons are happening, slowly but surely, and more birds, more bobbies, more stuffies, and more cagelets are still in the works for the store/site. The screen for the silk-screened part of the aprons is done, and waiting for its ink, which will happen this week, I think he said. Hon, when will you be able to silk-screen that stuff? I can't remember what you said. Gosh, I hope it all looks as good as I want it to, at the end of the day. Bear with me. I'll get there, I promise.

March 20, 2006

Don't Be Mad, Hillary

Capelet1_1Talk about show-offy. Hillary's over there throwing plastic crochet hooks all over the place and crocheting herself into a tube, and I'm all Hey guys, look what I designed! Yeah, I did say "designed." Hills, you know you are great at everything else though, right? You don't need crochet! I mean, if you could do something as simple as crochet, then what would Oscar use for toys? You're doing it (or not doing it) for him! So it's okay!

Oh, I'm just kidding. She'll get me back for this, don't worry. Maybe I'll have to make her one of these to appease. This is from the mysterious Family Circle Easy Knitting spring/summer 2006 issue that came out a few weeks ago. I had sort of forgotten what this little capelet, which I'd named "Emma," looked like. It looks very pretty on its Sienna Miller-ish model, though I have to admit my colors don't really fit in with their choice of color styling in the rest of the story: lots of lime green, navy blue, red, and lemon yellow, with big mod shapes in the background. I guess I'm a dove-gray girl in a lime-green world. It is a lot of fun to see my design, and the designs of my friends Kristin Spurkland and Ann E. Smith, who also have pieces in this issue. There are some cute things in there, including a very simple crocheted tank dress in stripes that would be darling at the beach, with white tennis shoes, and maybe a French Riviera-ish kerchief, a la To Catch a Thief? And you would certainly need some espadrilles for later, when you went into town.

Hillary? Are you still here? . . . Tim, quick, put some goggles on Oscar before Hillary starts winding up her pitching arm again. It's always funny until someone . . . never mind.

March 16, 2006

Engaged

EngagedTen years ago today Andy asked me to marry him! It happened after a long day of driving through the mountains. He'd had the ring in his pocket the whole time. We'd driven from Missoula to Great Falls, headquarters of the Buttrey grocery store chain, whose history I was researching and writing for them. We went out there to pick up a box of old photographs and documents. I was crabby all day. The project wasn't going well. I don't think I stopped talking about how badly it was going for one minute. We drove back to Missoula as the sun was going down. The mountains rose up, glowy blue and speckled with snow in the twilight. On the side of the road, several cars were pulled over. When that happens in Montana, you pull over, too, and go see what everyone is looking at. It was a herd of elk, about 100 yards away. The stag stood protectively in front of all the rest of them, staring hard at us, watching. Snow blew past in swirls. It was one of those stunningly beautiful Montana moments.

But no, this isn't where he asked me.

We got back in car and I insisted that we go to Pizza Hut for the salad bar. Doesn't that sound disgusting? I had a craving for a salad with hard-boiled eggs and bacon bits, and icy peas. Andy wanted to go somewhere nicer. Ohhhh, no. No, only Pizza Hut. Then we remembered it wasn't open for some reason. Oh was I mad. Now could we go somewhere nicer? No. I must have crap pizza and germy salad, so we headed for the strip. Tower Pizza, whose oak-paneled interior hadn't changed since the 70s. When we walked in I heard a commotion behind me, and turned to see one of their giant pendant lamps swinging, and Andy holding his forehead -- he had walked into the light fixture. What the. I motored through the restaurant to the salad bar. I got my salad and sat down and ate it and ranted about the project some more, munch, rant, munch munch, rant.  !!!  What a brat I am. Who wouldn't want to marry this charmer. When I finally looked up, he was gone. I turned and saw him on both knees next to our booth, holding out a ring. I have never been so surprised, except for the time my roommates threw me a surprise birthday party and I walked all the way through the house, talking about many, many of people who were at the time hiding in the house only feet away, and then stopped to go to the bathroom with the door wide open, still talking about people, and came out to see my roommates doubled-over laughing in the kitchen, and then everyone popped out and screamed "Surprise!" and I tell you I almost fell flat to the floor with shock (and embarrassment -- who knows what horrifying things I'd been saying, I'd already been at the bar for a few hours). The shock of being proposed to was second only to that. Of course I said yes and helped him slide into the booth beside me. His shirt was sopping, sopping wet with nervous sweat. Everyone in the place clapped. It was one of the best moments of my life. I don't think I'd ever been picked first for anything, ever, ever. I felt utterly, thoroughly chosen. We'd known each other for years before we even started dating. If you'd asked me, when I met him in 1989, if I thought we'd be married someday I would've said not in a million, bo-billion years, man. It seemed as likely as becoming a zoologist, or a strawberry farmer, or a detective. So, go figure.

I loved being engaged. Loved it. I liked the wedding, too, but the engagement anniversary always feels much more special to me than the wedding annivesary, somehow. And just in case you were wondering if this was still a craft blog, it is. I made that dress! Oh, and this is the picture I was talking about in this post about my grandma and her apartment building.

March 15, 2006

My New Old Buttons

Buttons2Last weekend Andy and I went with our friend Shelly (who is the generous, patient angel who makes my crazy web site ideas turn into actual web site pages) to a little button sale. Shelly is an avid button collector, and does extremely cool things with buttons that I will show you when she gets her web site all the way she wants it. She belongs to the local button society (I think that's what it is) and invited us to attend a little gathering of button ladies at a suburban hotel on Sunday. Andy and I were gonna just hang out together, because it's so rare that we actually have a weekend-day off together, but I thought the button thing sounded like fun so he came with. Shelly and I sidled around looking at old buttons and within a half-hour Andy was already holding court at a table in the back surrounded by a crowd of older ladies, all telling him their medical histories and showing him their buttons.  Predictably, he was having quite a fine time. He got some cool Portland and Chicago police buttons so we all went home happy.

Pho_bob_cristobelle_lg There is something so essentially optimistic about having a collection, any kind of collection. I find such little gatherings of like-minded souls very touching. When we arrived, a bit early, the ladies were all still eating the strawberry cake that was the dessert part of their luncheon, sitting at their little tables. After the lunch, they brought out the buttons they wanted to swap or sell, and many of them were on pieces of tagboard, all carefully labeled with tiny handwriting. The cards were incredible in their detail, and arrangement. I spent most of my time at the "poke boxes," which are boxes of buttons for a quarter or so, and you just dig through and pick out the ones you like. Everyone was so nice, and it was so relaxing, listening to them talk buttons. It's a topic I don't know a thing about, but, you know, buttons themselves are pretty darn charming whether you know anything about them or not. I made these (and there are more here on the site) from what I got there.

Pho_bob_basket_lgI thought about all the little "societies" having luncheons at that very moment, all over the world. It is so easy to watch the evening news and feel hopeless. In the face of such daily terrors and troubles, how could it matter, to care about something so small (or big, or weird, or purple, or whatever it is that turns you on)? To say "This is important to me. I care about it enough to keep it nice, and label it carefully, and share it with you" seems such a sweet, hopeful, distinctively human thing to do that I couldn't help but feel moved by the scene, and the subject matter -- all this care shown for the dear, homely little button! The most hardworking, humble, and often-invisible of objects. Why do people collect coins, or stamps, or stickers, or erasers. What are we doing when we find ourselves longing for the one eraser we don't yet have. To stake out a small territory of order and carefulness within the chaos of the universe -- as every collection of anything seems to be -- feels like an achievement, somehow, when it's often hard to see the point. I want to believe there is a reason for it, and perhaps want, too, to believe that the reason is not about the thing itself at all, but more about our ability to find ways to mitigate hopelessness. And practice love. I don't know. What is it.

Pho_bob_bristol_lg The hotel was so shabby, the lighting awful, but the setting seemed to speak to this feeling. The room itself was actually beyond irrelevant -- it seemed symbolic of something, all ugliness and junk. When I'd picked out my own little bag of cuties, I found Andy sitting happily with one lovely lady to whom he'd been talking for quite a while. She showed us all her favorites. We hadn't a clue what time it was and didn't care, the afternoon seemed open and slow. She was so pretty. I felt the lack of grandmothers in my adult life quite keenly then.  I would like to spend time, sifting through buttons and listening to stories about the 60s, Arizona, what it was like to move to a town where you knew no one, to make a friend who collected buttons and start a new hobby that would last forty years. "Oh, it's fun!" she said. I feel like I could learn a lot about things there. I wish I had a grandma. Maybe there are lots of different kinds of grandmas. Maybe they don't need to be yours at all to work their magic on you. I felt different when I left.

March 14, 2006

Glad Rags and Party Bags

Pirouetteillus2These bags are very versatile. They're for people who have real lives and actually get invited to parties. I'm not one of those people but I know they're out there because I see them on TV. But these bags are also for the rest of us, who like to hang stuff we wore twice on the door, with the bag, and pretend that maybe someday we'll have somewhere to go.

I'm not sure what it says about me that I am probably the least athletic person on earth, but the vast majority of my wardrobe consists of mismatched, poorly fitting athletic-type clothes: sweatjackets and velour sweatsuits and floppy t-shirts and very ugly stretchyish pants. This is why, all my life, I have wanted to wear a uniform. I think I hit my fashion prime when I was a movie theater candy girl and a dressed exactly the same every day: black mini skirt (this was the 80s), black tights, white blouse with Peter Pan collar, apron. And always with the Doc Martens. It was cute, very Parker Posey. Actually, come to think of it, I do in fact dress the same every day, except that now I'm very, like, junior-high volleyball coach.

Pho_piro_libraryplaid_lg I thought I'd get more done yesterday but I always underestimate how long it takes to Photoshop all the new photos and create the new pages. Nevertheless, things are moving quickly off the site, and I've been meaning to extend a huge and very sincere thank you to everyone who's been ordering from it, and stopping by the shop lately. I'm sorry it's taking me so long to finish everything I have planned, including new cagelets. There are a lot of new things up there today, including another ten or so Pirouette bags like these. If you're someone who has been waiting to see stuff, please have a look. It turns out that the blog readers are getting a jump on things much earlier than the mailing list people because I'm not able to get the newsletter out as frequently as I am able to update the blog. Typepad makes life so much easier! I love it.

Pho_piro_aquamarinestripe_l_1 I've noticed that it's kind of tricky to Photoshop product photos on the laptop. The way the screen tilts can really affect the way the lighting looks in your photo, and I have trouble getting everything consistent. I try to keep the colors of the product as true to life as possible, regardless of what that does to the background, but it's still kind of tricky. I love these bags, though. These are the ones I made on HGTV. I've been doing them for a long time. Once these are gone, I probably won't do them anymore. My silk stock is getting low and I'm really trying to use only the supplies I already have from now on.

March 10, 2006

Worse for Wear, though Still in Bloom

Aftersnow2Here are the primroses after yesterday's snowy coverage, a little floppy, a little disheveled, but who's not. I took the day off yesterday, completely. It felt really good to do that after such an emotional week! (And, just real quick again I wanted to say thank you to everyone for your comments lately that are still coming in, and your emails, and your references on blogs -- I know I won't be able to answer most of them personally because, quite frankly, whenever I read them I start sobbing again, but I just wanted to make sure that you know how important your words were to me. I printed that whole thing out and put it into my special folder of things that I keep forever. Thank you.) So, I puttered around alone and watched the snow fall -- by the way, it's falling again, big fat hockey-puck-like snowflakes. I've never seen snowflakes so big. I watched the news yesterday afternoon and they said the snow on the mountain (Mt. Hood, a 14,000 mountain about an hour away from Portland, seen rising luminously above the east side when it's clear) was the best in several years. So exciting for them there! We didn't get up to Timberline Lodge this winter. If you ever consider coming to Portland, you should definitely try and make this a stop on your tour. It's the ultimate monument to the saving graces of handcrafts. Built at the height of the Great Depression, Timberline was commissioned by the federal Works Progress Administration and built entirely by hand -- from the construction of the building itself (on a remote site on the side of the mountain, no less) to each and every piece of furniture, rug, watercolor, and banister -- by unemployed craftspeople who taught others, others with no experience whatsoever, to hammer, nail, stitch, carve, and weave that building into existence. And what a cathedral of spirit is it. It's a place that is dear to me and to generations of Oregonians. When you go there, try to stay overnight at the Lodge if you can. It's not the height of luxury by any means -- but in some ways, it's the most fantastic place you'll ever stay, especially if you are someone who believes in the power of handmade things. The optimism and healing that the project must have engendered in its creators is evident in every step of that circling tower. It represents the best of Oregon, and is beloved. And covered in new snow!

Cupcakes2_1 Anyhoo, yesterday I decided I desperately needed a day of puttering, and cooking, so I made Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry from Nigella Bites (which was delish, although I used halibut instead of salmon because I don't like salmon) and some St. Patrick's Day cupcakes for the girls at work. I know this will probably get me kicked out of the craft-blog community for saying so but: I just don't really like chocolate. I want to. I want to experience the life-changing I-don't-even-need-a-vacation-after-this-one-bite-of-Scharffenberger, but all I can think of, every time I cave and do something chocolate, is Nice, but I wish I'd left out the chocolate. Also, if anyone has any cupcake-baking advice, please advance it this way. Almost every single time I bake cupcakes, two things happen: I wind up with way more batter than they say I'll have, and so I have to make more cupcakes than they say I will, and then when they come out of the oven they shrink like little old wrinkled marshmallows, pulling so far away from the sides of the tin that they're just floating around. I put the two biggest cupcakes in the front of this picture, so they look better here than they actually do in real life. I want a dense, heavy cupcake, not a miniature one that feels like a March breeze will blow it out of my hand (mouth). I think you'll tell me that I'm beating it too much, and there is too much air in the batter. Maybe I should mix the flour in by hand, instead of by Kitchen Aid?

Well, I have to go to work today, so I'll be able to catch up on blogs I haven't been reading. Also, I hear that the Family Circle Easy Knitting spring issue is out on newsstands, though I can't find it. I have a capelet pattern in there I've been wanting to see. The magazine has been in a bit of transition -- no longer published by Soho, it was sold to Meredith (who owns Better Homes and Gardens), though it's still called Family Circle EK. To further confuse, my pattern is crocheted. Also, the web site associated with the mag is out of date, and the editor says they will eventually have a new site but no current plans for that now. So it will be interesting to see what this looks like, and if it is good. There are so many new grocery-store-type knitting mags out there all of a sudden, have you noticed? My question is, is it better to have more magazines or better magazines, in general, in the industry? I guess we'll see.

March 04, 2006

Pretty Birds and Poufy Flowers

Pho_bout_pinkicingrose_lg_1 I love spring. I love the "oomph!" feeling of it, the oomph of everything pushing up, and out, so much more than the "bah-byyyyyyyye" feeling of fall. I sat on my porch this morning in pajamas and a parka, watching the birds play and silently reveling in that half hour of light when the automatic sensor of the front-yard streetlamp hasn't yet alerted the bulb to turn off, but the sky is irreversibly rosy and pregnant. Then there's that little "click," and the light goes off. The split second between dawn and morning.

Pho_birds_maisie_lg_1 That's my favorite time of day. It's so quiet, even on our own street. I went down to the front wall and the parkway and had a look. Brownish. Lots of leaf gunk clogging up the works down there. Lots of roses that didn't get pruned properly. Lots of dead stalky things that never got clipped sticking up at broken angles. And still, an anemone poking through it all, and plum blossoms fluttering. I saw only one other person, my neighbor, and she was in pajamas, too, so we just waved good morning and left the other to her still-drowsy perusals.

Pho_bout_cherry_lg_1 I never, ever thought I was a morning person, but of course I've become one now that I almost never use an alarm clock, and never have to get up early. When I do have to get up early, of course I cannot. The hub wakes up on work days at 5:30 a.m., and I generally beat him to it, and grab the first shower. It's vaguely disturbing how motivated I am by the idea that coffee is brewing, but by 5:50 I can think of nothing on earth so wonderful as that first sip. I would so be in line for fancy coffee makers and such, except that our cabinets sit only like 14 inches or something above the counter, and there is only one coffee maker that I've found that fits below them, and it's just some random one-button Mr. Coffee-type.

Pho_birds_cheerie_lg_1 Isn't this little hunchy guy cute? His name is Cheerie. I finally got the new birds and flower pins put on the site. I messed up the site quite a bit in the process, too. It is so terrifying to change the template, and then watch it update all 372 html files. I just always feel like one wrong button could delete . . . everything. Or at least mess it all up. Which it kind of did. At least the spacing between lines in the sidebar. Which it turned out was kind of okay, but still, not intentional. I feel like Dreamweaver (the site design program) actually knows I am afraid of it, kind of like a horse can feel fear transferred from your butt to its back. Dreamweaver feels my fingers approach, and puts its ears back.

Pho_birds_cora_medI'm so glad that it's spring. Andy started his seeds a couple of days ago. I think he's doing mostly herbs. What are you doing, hon? I never asked. He came up from the basement after getting his stuff in trays and said, "Oh yeah, they sent us this free packet of wildflower seeds. Did you want me to spread those?" NO! No, please! I do know that much, from watching my parents fall for it years ago, and then battle the resulting chaos. They really should label those things "free weeds" and save all us neophytes with tiny suburban plots the grief. It would be so much kinder, really.

February 21, 2006

The Pinafore Collection

Pinafore3 There's nothing like a mountain of  fabric on a spouse's chair and the deadline induced by imminent arrival of his plane to motivate one to . . . sew. And sew I did, so that he wouldn't see what a disaster I made of the house while he was gone. Wow. Weird how 48 hours in a house by oneself with a sewing machine and plenty of groceries produces such a mess. But look what came out of it!

Aw, I'm so happy. I sewed twenty handbags and got handles and buttons put on seven of them before this morning. I'm a little bit excited about these girls, I must say. Thank you to all of you for your really nice comments yesterday -- I really appreciate so much encouragement and kindness. Melanie asked me a couple of interesting questions I don't think I've been asked before, so before I forget, I'll answer them here.

Pinafore6 First she wanted to know if I ever keep something for myself that I originally intended to sell. My answer: not often enough! But I am trying to make a point of keeping more for myself, since it's dawning on me that I won't be doing this forever, and I won't have any tangible evidence that I did do it if I don't start keeping my favorites. I have let a lot of things go that I wish I had kept, actually -- though I usually don't wish that I'd kept it until it's gone. Oh well. I've shipped over 260 individual orders (this includes everything from handbags to individual crochet patterns) in the last six months, and sometimes I just get going so fast I'm only thinking about how to get through the day. Having the blog is actually helping me be a lot more thoughtful and reflective about things, and I hope the result of that will be that I pick out my own bag first, and then do everything else second sometimes.

Melanie also asked if I was surprised by which bags went first and which do not. My answer: ALWAYS! Always. It's totally bizarre to me. That's why now when I'm working on something that is not totally jazzing me, I just keep going because I know it'll be the first one to sell.

Do I attempt to forecast future trends? Um, sadly, no. I can barely keep up with the present. Although it probably makes business sense to do so, I wouldn't say that I consciously follow trends or even know what they are (if you saw me in real life you would say "Clearly!"), though I'm probably always absorbing things and responding to them just like anyone else. I don't mean to sound disingenuous about this. Maybe being fickle and capricious in one's tastes can sometimes make it appear as if one is aware of trends, when really, I just have ADD. I will say that I am always trying to do something uniquely my own, something that fits specifically into Alicia-world. I'm guided most consistently by the little stories I make up. They help me find a focus for the difference colors, patterns, and ideas that I like. People come into the store (or call, or email) and say, all day long, "Oh, you should make this, and this, and this!" I've learned to just smile politely and say, "Well, I'll keep that in mind! Thanks!" If someone tells me to do something I usually don't, just on principal (sorry, Dad), because I get twitchy and freak out when anyone wants me to do . . . anything. I always just make things that I like. For instance, I consistently have to be reminded to make things that are black for fall, because I don't like black and I never really use it. And when I do succumb to customer "suggestions" in my designs I have to be feeling it as much as I "feel" anything else -- another reason I don't do custom work at all anymore. Inevitably I would wind up designing things to meet customers' criteria that I didn't like, but then the things would have my name on them, and that was just no good. So -- I just make what I like, and what I have always liked, and sometimes the things I like are popular, which I also like -- makes it a lot easier to shop. My tastes really haven't changed all that much since I was an itty bitty. I had a mint green room with pink flowers. I was a total priss and also a dork, also fairly preppy in a tattered, second-hand way. I was big into The Smiths in high school, though. Maybe those things aren't so far apart, really. . . .

February 20, 2006

Beginnings of Bags

Fabricsforbags_2When I start developing each collection of Posie handbags, I always start with the fabric. Usually I have a vague idea of the shape of the bag, and a "feeling" that I want to capture, but really, it's all about the fabric.

This February I've had an idea in mind about a room in spring -- an English nursery, actually, way up at the top of some old wedding-cake-y house, filled with lilacs (actually the lilacs are down in the yard), confectionery molding and slanted ceilings, tattered flowery wallpaper and flannel eiderdowns and big, paned windows. I have this idea when I go to the fabric store.

At first, nothing appeals. I take a deep breath. Keep looking. Sure enough, certain prints rise to the surface. They seem to indicate relationships with other prints I may have passed. I go back. The idea fleshes out. The cart becomes unwieldy. I always buy my fabrics locally, on sale days. This spring, it's patchwork, polka dots, prints like old pajamas, eyelet. When I get back in the car with my huge bag of fabric and a little bit of anxiety over how much money I've just spent, I see a small strip of paper face down on the passenger's seat. It's an old paint chip from when we painted some stuff in the shop. Pale pink, it's name "Pinafore." Perfect. Meet the beginnings of the Pinafore Collection by Posie.

Bagbeginnings1_2 It sounds like I made that up, but I swear I didn't -- it's uncanny how often things come together when I'm coming up with my little concept, so lovely and easy -- and actually, this part usually is. But it's the only part that ever really goes love-ily and easily, at least for me. If I could just sit around designing concepts and sketching them out and making the first one, I would. And the first one, or ones, can take all weekend, though it's nice work, exciting; I make coffee, watch BBC America, make a mess, hold my bag at arm's length and stare at it happily. There is a thrill in seeing something that you've pictured in your mind actually work out. You say, "How cool -- that's exactly what I wanted to happen!"

Of course, it took all day to get that one. The logistics of actually getting a whole bunch of 'em made can be more complicated. Because most of the things in the Posie product line are one-of-a-kind -- probably related to each other but not exactly like each other -- it makes the manufacturing part a laborious, slightly complicated process. Because I do so many different products, and such small collections of each, it's usually impractical or impossible to get help that I can afford, or is of high-enough quality. I do have an excellent seamstress that sometimes helps me with a lot of the repetitive, non-design stuff, but I still shop for and order all the supplies, find other solutions when the suppliers are out of stock (so often) or have discontinued something we've been working with for a long time (so often), drive around getting everything, pick out all the details for each item, and organize each stage of getting everything made and finished. In this case, I think I'm going to do it all: the cutting, the piecing, the stitching, the pressing, the gluing, the stitching (always more stitching). Then all of the handles and buttons will be hand-stitched on after the rest of the bag is finished. These bags are more complicated than my usual -- I'm definitely heading toward fewer different products in the line, but better, more complicated, more interesting designs. I feel happier with this. I want things to be just right. (Not that I wouldn't love to just design without all the making part, but for now. . . .) Each Posie bag is fawned over until it's released into the world, since I like to think that people care about how things are made, and that it matters to them that each bag is special. If it doesn't matter to them, at least it matters to me -- making handbags isn't going to change the world, but at least I feel like I'm putting something good and beautiful back into it. I try to remember this when I'm tired, or feeling discouraged. I really do believe that life is enhanced when its most prosaic things are filled with specialness and care. I guess this is what guides my work.

February 14, 2006

Cagelet Sale Today!

Missbluella Miss Bluella -- SOLD

Missjuniejuly Miss Juniejuly -- SOLD

Missmarionberry Miss Marionberry -- SOLD

Mrscottagewood Mrs. Cottagewood -- SOLD

MrsdarlingtonMrs. Darlington -- SOLD

Mrsrhubarbie Mrs. Rhubarbie -- SOLD

Mrsstrawberriemay2 Mrs. Strawberry-May -- SOLD

February 13, 2006

Cagelet Sale Tomorrow!

Cageletdetail Right here, at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, tomorrow, Valentine's Day! Aw. Cute.

$42 postage paid U.S, $48 international. Leave a comment, first come, first served. I might cover my eyes, post, then leave the property, and come back when it's all over instead of playing operator this time, as amusing as that image was. I'm a little tiny bit frightened. Whatever cagelets are left after tomorrow will go on the Posie web site, along with any new ones, in the future.

There is something special about these that won't appear in the photographs. If you get one, be sure to tell me who it will be for; that will determine what the "extra" thing will be. Isn't this mysterious. Not really. So cute though. You can trust me.

Michelle Kwan, I'm sorry that I said I might not root for you at the Olympics! I feel really bad that I said I that now. I always did think you had a right to be there; I am just liking Sasha a lot lately. Either way, I think it's so sad that you won't be competing. I actually teared up when I heard. YOU ARE A GREAT SKATER!!!

Am I PMS-ing here or what? Jeez.

February 11, 2006

Missing: One Quilt

Quilt Ah, Saturday morning. I think the hubby is going to work for me today at the shop. Thank you, sweetie. I've turned into a snot-nosed pumpkinhead. I know there's no such thing as a Big Gulp of Airborne, but that's all I really want. Oh, and this quilt would be nice to sit on the couch with as I moan annoyingly. Alas, it is no longer mine.

I took this picture on regular film six years ago, shortly after we moved into our little house. I made this quilt for our new bedroom, the first one I'd made in years and years. In college I made quilts all the time, and I always enjoyed it. I picked out these fabrics with my friend Pam, who I went to college with, and who likes to make quilts, too. She was visiting me in the new house. I think she picked out fabrics for her own quilt that weekend, too. Pam has great taste, edgier than mine. I see her influence here and I love that.

Our room was mint green then. I loved making this quilt. I didn't love making the ruffle, which went all the way around it and took forever to hem and gather, and then get on there. I think I had everything put together but just hadn't quilted or tied the top when I left on my train tour of the West Coast. In the fall of 2000 I took the train from Portland to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix by myself, just to visit friends along the way, for about a month. I took the quilt with me, intending to tie it on the train. Well, that didn't happen. Nevertheless, it was great to have it with me. I had a sleeper car all to myself and snuggled every night under my quilt with my books and my little reading light, the ocean flashing outside.

The return trip, from Phoenix to Portland, was long; I was ready to be off the train the minute I stepped onto it. I was missing Andy terribly, when all of a sudden, I looked out the window as we sat in the Santa Barbara station, and there he was! He was getting on the train! I was completely shocked. Unbeknownst to me, he had arranged to fly to L.A., stay with a friend overnight, and get on my train as it left L.A. early the next morning. Unfortunately, however, there was a sink hole that rerouted us by bus to Santa Barbara. We were on different buses from L.A. to S.B., but luckily, the train was waiting in S.B., and as I sat once again in my little private room, relieved to be on the rails again, there was Andy on the platform, carrying his little suitcase. Oh, joy!

Oh it was fun! We played cards and ate in the dining car and avoided other passengers and read and watched scenery. I had taken the train many, many times, all over the country, but had rarely traveled with him that way. By the time we reached Portland a couple days later, however, I was soooo ready to be home. I was a sack of potatoes. All through my trip I had managed my own stuff according to my little travel-inventory system: Suitcase -- check. Backpack -- check. Quilt -- check. Well, when Andy arrived, it was like I completely fell apart and forgot about my little travel-inventory system. That night as I climbed happily in to my own bed, I looked down at my covers. No quilt. Ohmigod! Where was it? With our stuff, downstairs awaiting the washing machine? Nope. In the Portland train station? Nope. Called Amtrak -- we knew exactly which car we had been traveling in, our porter's name, etc. The quilt was left behind a pillow. Did they have it? NOPE. We never got it back.

Aren't I stupid? Man. Someone out there has my quilt. I hope they love it as much as I did. If you see it, make a citizen's arrest. Though I suppose at this point it would be a case of finders keepers. Anyway, I miss my quilt. I made another one shortly after but I never really liked it.

February 10, 2006

Cagelet Sale on Tuesday

Littlenest Ooooo, I don't feel good. Sore throat, messy head. I can't wait to get home and put on my cozies and have someone bring me some dinner. Honey, if you're reading this, I'd like Green Curry Shrimp. Then, the Olympic opening ceremonies! We have to wait until 2/21 and 2/23 for ladies' figure skating, though. I'm sorry to say this Michelle, but I think I'm all for Sasha. . . . I think. I'm conflicted.

You will have to wait 'til Tuesday for cagelets, but oh, these are good. If I do say so. Tuesday at 11 a.m. PST. I'll remind you again on Monday. There are seven new ones. You know the drill. Don't be late.

February 08, 2006

Flock of Friendlies

Birdblue1_1 As mentioned, I've been so touched by all of the beautiful, carefully wrapped, thoughtfully chosen presents that have come in the mail to me lately, from people I've never met or even "talked" to directly. This is an utterly new experience for me, I have to admit. It has moved me profoundly. It feels like they are coming from the universe, somehow. I am very humbled to have received such wonderful things.

Birdbluepink1 My father used to tease me when I was younger, and had a lot of pen-pals, and wrote and received letters nearly every day. He said that I had a Pavlovian response to the clang of the mail-slot opening and the thump of the mail falling on the floor. Wherever I was in the house, whatever I was doing, I could hear it, and would go running. In addition to saying "Ow!" once when someone threw a marshmallow at me, this seems to have been a defining characteristic of mine in the eyes of my family. I was the person who got hurt by marshmallows and skidded through rooms with a wild look in her eye in pursuit of letters.

Birdgroup4_1 In recent years, of course, I've come to dread the mail -- it's all bills, fliers, the sadness of missing children, advertisements posing as winning sweepstakes announcements. Some days I don't even take it out of the box, that's how little I've come to like it. So rarely is there a real card, or a real letter, or a real package, especially now that even I, the woman who actually hand-writes in an approximation of Copperplate Script (when I try), communicate only via email, for the most part. I didn't know that the mailbox could still yield such wonder!

Birdgroup7_2 After my little sniffle of happiness Sunday morning over the latest donations to my neatly hoarded stash of prezzies, I thought about what I could make that would be special, and embody the friendliness and generosity that I wanted to reciprocate. So, sweet little paper mache birds with crocheted wire necklaces trimmed with millinery flowers, sent flying over hill and dale on their ways to my new friends. I loved every minute of making these. I do hope the girls enjoy them.

February 06, 2006

Birds and Flowers

Birds1_1 Birds and flowers, just not the kind you were hoping for. I'd thought I might have time for a little cagelet making yesterday, but instead we had coffee and croques monsieurs with some old college friends who were swinging through town. With $12 of St. Honore pastries (i.e.: two, but worth every franc) in a box for later, I sat down to work on some new bird-y things and never got up. Alas, no cagelets tomorrow for all that have kindly inquired about them. But I will, I will, do one more round here on the blog and then move everything over to the Posie web site, where it will live with its own Paypal button. I'll make an announcement the day before the cagelets go up here, as I did before. The Posie site is very low on inventory, though I really am trying to change that. This is what I get for spending an hour and a half taking pictures of stuffed animals. Not that long, but you know what I mean. Still, wouldn't change a thing.

January 30, 2006

Take-Out Valentines

Poppygroup6_1 Why yes, I do love pink! I'm also in the beginning stages of admitting that I like fake flowers better than the real ones. I know that's sacrilege, or something. But it always makes me feel so sad to throw a real bouquet that someone's given me away once it's spent -- they fade so quickly (and go through such torturous processes)! And the real ones in the garden -- as soon as I see flowers come up, I start feeling a strange longing for their return -- next year. I love the excited anticipation of their arrival, and those first few days of unfurling, and then I start getting anxious about their imminent departure.

But paper, while lasting not quite forever, lasts longer, travels better, and comes in gingham and polka dots. Also, it's cheaper. These are the special Valentine's Edition of the Poppyboxes I do at Posie all year long. Pink hangs around all year in general, for me, but at V-Day I really let it loose.

January 25, 2006

Calling All Crocheters

Teasetall2_3 If you were hanging around here yesterday, you might have caught the frenzied 11:00 a.m.-scramble to claim cagelets. It so very quickly went from "Oh, pretty birds!" to The Birds as I, Tippy Hedren-like, flailed around and tried to stay in control of the situation. If you read the blow-by-blow as recorded in the comments, it's even funnier when you look at the times attached to each one. Of course, Amy P.'s comment, later that afternoon, is my favorite -- just imagining the sweet curly-haired, pink-loving Amy uttering any profanity, let alone the "worst possible curse word imaginable" when she was too late to get a cagelet, is enough to make me love her, but knowing that I was the one talking her ear off on the telephone on Monday, while the advanced notice was just hanging out there unread, means I will have to make you a special one, dear little Amy. And in the meantime, the rest of you can coo over the adorable itty-bitty elephant creamer that I bought ever so long ago from Amy's adorable web site, Inspire Company.

Teasetsome_1 Anyway, I am so sorry everyone -- I didn't know things would happen so quickly, and will try not to put you through that in the future. I would be lying if I said I wasn't entirely puffed with pride all day, however. Thank you for that enthusiastic reception! Oh, and if you didn't get one yesterday, I would be a fool to not be doing more, and quick, right? So, probably Sunday, again, will be cagelet-making day, and I'll let you know when they're all photographed and ready to fly away.

The other day I got an email from Vickie Howell's (of Knitty Gritty on the DIY network) assistant asking for submissions for Vickie's new crochet book, Catwalk Crochet. Apparently, this will be a compilation of 40 patterns from Vickie and other new and veteran designers inspired by the fashion runway (Ginger says "think Betsey Johnson, Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui") using luxury yarns. Sketches are due on February 7, which is coming right up. If you are inspired to participate, please read more about this opportunity on Vickie's blog (scroll down to the entry for January 18 where she will give you all the details) and give it a go. I'm going to try and get a sketch and a swatch in, but it's a pretty tight deadline right now, what with trying to get my own spring stuff going. This is always the way it is, though. Can one wear teacups? 'Cause those are done. Betsey Johnson-inspired teacup bra? Probably not. Dang/Worst Possible Curse Word Imaginable.

January 24, 2006

Cagelet Sale To-day

Mrsnantucket_2 Rarely, rarely do I make things that I have trouble letting go of. I don't know why this is -- I can't count how many different products have come and gone from my line without ceremony, or even a sample left for me. But again, on Sunday, I found myself under the spell of the cagelets, and liked each new one just a wee bit more than the one I had just finished. I can only assume, once again, that it is just a bit of birdie magic. See what you think. This one (above) is Mrs. Nantucket.

Misspinkiesweet_1Miss Pinkiesweet

Mrsplum_1 Mrs. Plummy

Mrsredrose_1Mrs. Redrose

Missmelody_1Miss Melody

Misslemonella_1Miss Lemonella

If you'd like to have one of these live at your house, leave a comment with the name of the bird you would like, and I'll contact you directly. They are $36 each plus $6 shipping. Thank you!

January 23, 2006

Cagelets Coming Tomorrow!

Mrsplumsmall A heads-up for bird-lovers: More cagelets are coming tomorrow, at 11 a.m. PST. There are several more for you, and they won't go onto the Posie web site until you, bloggy people, have had a look. If you'd like one, please leave me a comment tomorrow and I'll email you directly; they are $36 plus postage, and they'll just go first-come, first-served. The first five from last week have already been sold, and no two are alike.

Unfortunately, I don't take custom orders for anything, but I hope you'll like what I've done.

Tweet tweet!

January 17, 2006

The Littlest Birds Sing the Prettiest Songs

MauvebirdsmallThe rain stopped for about four seconds this weekend. I looked out the window, and the front yard was filled with little tweeters.

They were so happy! And hungry! They bounced all over the front lawn, looking for snacks. In their honor, these, made Sunday. Like most of you, I love birdies.

Here are Miss Merry, Miss Greenapple, and Miss Lemoncello. Mrs. Jellytot and Miss Gingerie are at Flickr. (You can see them in full size on Flickr [just click on that badge to your left]. And yes, they are for sale: $36 each, plus shipping. Just leave me a comment and I'll get back to you. Eventually they will go up on the Posie web site but not until the sale there is over, in February, so this is a sneak preview.)

Greenbirdsmall Anyhoo, as I was saying, I love birdies and I love mobiles, too, and I'd been wanting to make some for a long time. I've never worked with wire before, but I had an idea about a little cage that was also like a little nest -- bits and bobs stuck in here and there. So -- little wire cagelets, tufted with vintage flowers, ripped bits of fabric, spools of thread, ribbons, rick-rack, sparkly "grass," butterflies. I loved developing each one, and letting it tell me what to choose. I was going to hang a paper mache bird down through the center of each, but these little mushroom birds are just so adorable. I've always had some sitting around the studio because whenever I see a cute one I tend to pick it up, but I'd never really come up with a good project for them. They seem happy with this, I think.

Yellowbirdsmall It wasn't exactly easy to make the wire part of the cage, I must say. The thing flopped around all over the place, and it was difficult to get it straight and even. Also, it's really hard to photograph wire (I think). There is something very nonchalant and spontaneous about these when you see them hanging in real life; I had a hard time capturing that in the photographs. So far I've done five, and plan to do at least twelve for the shop in February. Sweet little Valentine's Day treats, I think. Maybe a few little glittery hearts hanging from the bottom. Or just one. I'll have to wait and see what the thing says.

January 12, 2006

Minnow and Maeve

Minnowandmaeve2 Since the new goal of my life (as I told the soon-to-be-recipient-of-one-of-these-bun's mother this morning) is to stay inside where it is warm, dry, and not pouring cold rain incessantly, a litter of bunnies has cropped up. Meet Minnow and Maeve, two of the flock. There are five in all so far, but I had a hard enough time photographing these two in the dim, gloomy light upstairs. I've got almost every light in the house on. The backyard is an enormous puddle of mud. The cats careen around the house trying to kill each other. I've told them over and over again that it is my fault that it's raining, not each other's, but they don't care about anything I say, ever. Bridget just gave me such a look of disdain it actually hurt my feelings, then went back to trying to kill Violet. I wanted to play my penny whistle this morning, but Violet was trying to bite me in the face. The dog hurls herself after them, whining anxiously: When can we go outside? Never.

Minnow I like these bunnies better than the real animals around here lately. They are always sweet and nice to me. These will be gifts, but I'm working on a bunch of my own, based on the vintage pattern I used for these. I like stuffies that are basically one shape like this. They seem very open and friendly somehow. These are made of lovely soft wools with velvet ears and cotton calico tummies. I just realized I still have to make Maeve's tail, an angora pompom. I think my bunnies are going to have a little bit smaller ears and a little bit bigger bodies, but will generally be this same classic shape. I want to find a way to dress them up a bit with some of the millinery flowers I have around; I don't know why they seem to suit them so. But I think they would have to be removable, as vintage millinery flowers seem about the least baby-friendly thing I can think of, aside from, like, forks or something.

I'm always surprised and how long it takes to stuff the little beasties. I'm sitting there stuffing, and stuffing, and stuffing, and poking and prodding, and a half an hour has gone by. Maybe even more, I lose track. It's sort of meditative, really. I also like the hand sewing parts -- head to body, and ears to head. It's a nice way to spend the afternoon. Except that I actually have to get to work. Darn it.

Did you see Margaret, by the way? Oh dear me.

January 09, 2006

A Cupcake Bake

Cupcakes2Thank you everyone, most sincerely, for your birthday wishes and kind words. Aside from the drenching rain that lasted all day long, my birthday was lovely and full of phone calls and cards and presents and food and fun. We saw Stars on Ice at the Rose Garden that night and it was beautiful. I do love my live ice skating events!

One of the presents I received (thank you, Carmen!) was the drool-inducing cookbook Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans. I am a cake purist. A cake and ice cream purist. What flavor cake for me? Vanilla. What flavor frosting? Vanilla. And ice cream? Don't even need to tell you (but it's vanilla). Boring, unadventurous old me. I like to think of it as having simple, classic tastes. I read the whole cupcake cookbook and my big choice, by the end? The Kid-Simple cupcake -- yellow cake with buttercream frosting. A few sprinkles. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was the best cupcake I've ever had. (Just re-read this and it sounds like I'm taking credit, but I assure you I am no baker -- it's just the book that's good.) There is sour cream in the cake recipe, which I've never put in yellow cake before; if that's what made these work so well, I'm all for it.

We are amassing a huge library of gorgeous Chronicle books, aren't you? Oh how I love Chronicle. How do they do it. How how how.

Oh -- and I'll tell you about my crocheted teapot (in the background, above) soon, I promise.

January 05, 2006

Sock like Collage

Andys_sock_1

For the record, no, I don't actually think that taking a shower and writing a blog post in the same day qualify as "getting something done," but yes, I do feel a satisfying sense of accomplishment when I get through all my saved TiVo programs in one night. For the record, yes, my Christmas stuff is still up and no, I don't want it to be. At all. Also, annoyingly for the record, no, I haven't finished the other sock (the Christmas prezzie for Mr. Wonderful over here), and yes, I agree that it can't be that hard to do two things at once when one of those things is "lying on the sofa"; can I get away with saying that my resolution for 2006 is to stop trying to multitask everything? So far I've been very successful with it!

What's more important is how cool this little collage by the lovely and talented Lisa is. I ordered it to go with the sock(s) (which BTW is/are made of Fortissima Socka yarn, in color 6523). Soon the collage will go on the wall above the ottoman on which the feet with the socks will, of an evening, rest. I actually wanted this incredibly gorgeous pillow of hers, too, which would have gone with the socks just as perfectly, but as I told her, I am not allowed to have beautiful pillows anymore, thanks to the corgi at far left, who climbs up pillows and parks herself on the top edges of pillows and squashes them down until they are completely ruined, and I couldn't bear that. In fact, I'm watching her do it right this very minute as she loses her mind while watching Richard, our harried mailman, approach. Ohmigod it makes me absolutely crazy when she does that. Can I hang a pillow on the wall? . . . Hmmm. I must consider this.

Thank you, sweet Lisa. We love it.

January 02, 2006

How I Take Pictures, by Alicia P.

Pearhood3 I got a lovely new tripod for Christmas, and I meant to tell you how I take my pictures, since my mother-in-law and others have asked for details or advice and I've been meaning to reply. As with so much of what I do, I am self-taught in this and just wind up finding something that works and sticking to it -- this is my huge disclaimer for any of you who actually do know what you're doing left shaking your heads at my dumb directions by the end of this. (There is a really comprehensive photo tutorial at The Switchboards which may be helpful if you'd like more detail about how things actually work, but I am easily confused and function on a more need-to-know basis, so this far-less-technical version is mine.) Although most of my keepers involve luck, a decent camera, a little well-placed profanity, and a vast quantity of unusable photos shot in order to get just one I like, here is how I take my pictures:

I use a Canon PowerShot A80, and I really like it. It captures natural light in a lovely, rosy way (though I could be accused of taking this a little too far -- I like my color to be quite warm and luminous). It is a 4.0 megapixel camera, and seems to serve our purposes very well. We had an older digital camera that wasn't as nice, and I found it absolutely couldn't grab light in the same way as this one, so if you're struggling, you might consider this. I also make sure that I've set the camera at the highest resolution, just in case I want to print any of the pictures out. You'll have room for fewer photos, but since I upload them to my hard drive quite regularly, this doesn't matter. If you're going out and want to take vastly more pictures at a lower quality, set the resolution lower. But let's assume you're just taking pictures around the house or neighborhood: Keep the resolution high and you'll have more options in the long run.

I take most of my pictures on the "Portrait" setting, which keeps objects in the front of the frame crisp while blurring the background. I turn off the Auto-Focus option so that I can control where the camera is focusing and reading light; center the rectangle where you want the focus/light reading to be, and hold the button down halfway, until it beeps (or whatever your camera does to tell you it's "got it") -- then click!

I always shoot without a flash. I loathe the flash almost as much as I loathe most overhead lighting. (I keep the bulbs in ceiling fixtures for safety, but I never turn them on and have been known to sneak into the guest room and re-light it if unknowing guests accidentally use the overheads instead of the many ambient and vastly more romantic table lamps in the room, but that's just me, as in "This is Alicia: She can't share at restaurants and she'll yell at you if you flick a switch in her house.") Anyway, please turn off the flash. It reflects off your objects and ultimately washes everything out. Trust me. Or I'll have to yell at you and come over there and turn it off myself.

Once you've turned off the flash, your camera will automatically compensate for this by widening the aperture (or the amount of light it lets in) or changing the shutter speed, which keeps the lens open for a longer period (and also obviously lets in more light). I think. (See, I told you -- I barely get it.) When you have less light, and your lens is open for a longer period, things that are moving in the frame can be blurred. You, moving the camera, can also cause still objects to get blurry. When I am taking photos of still-lifes, I always use a tripod to hold the camera. Always.Yes, always. The results are strikingly improved over trying to "hold still" while you're shooting. If you're frustrated with your pictures of things that aren't moving, I would suggest investing in this. It's a really inexpensive (around $25) way to improve things significantly, especially if you are interested in taking still photos of crafts you've made, or a room, or a flower or something detailed like that. Make friends with your tripod and keep it close at hand and get good at unfurling it's legs quickly and you will grow to love it.

In addition to placing the camera on the tripod, I also set the shutter to open two seconds after I've pushed the button. (You can do with the self-timer feature.) This rules out the possibility that I will jiggle the camera with my big fat finger while I'm pushing the button. I push it, release it, stand back, and two seconds later, it clicks. I take all my product shots this way. The camera automatically finds the focus for you, so things always come out clear. If I'm doing something really close up, I turn on the "Flower," which allows you to focus on things that are very near to the camera.

Once I've downloaded the pictures to my computer, I save them to the hard drive in separate labeled folders by subject, not just date -- I take so many photos they can get really disorganized, so I'd rather have more pedantically labeled folders than a billion random images labeled "IMG046_72" etc. to shuffle through. Once the photos are on the computer, I close the transfer software, which often comes with some kind of very basic -- too basic -- "viewer," and open the folder in the Photoshop "Browse" window. There is, of course, other software available for working with your photos, and I'm assuming it works much the same way, but I'm not sure, so this next part is for Photoshop-havers; but you could try it with whatever you have.

This is by no means a technical tutorial on using Photoshop, which is an enormously capable and complicated program. For the purposes of this paragraph, we'll just assume that you want to take decent photos and save and re-size them to post on your blog or send over email, not print out. Most people who send images over email just send whatever the camera gives them, and oftentimes those photos can be huge and take a long time to get into someones in-box. But you can easily resize them to post on a web site or send more conveniently, and your recipients will love you more. The first thing I do is choose the cropping tool, which looks like a sort of arrow thing on your palette. Then I go up to the top and set the specs for that tool: For any photos I want to use on-line, the maximum resolution (or dpi -- dots per inch) setting necessary is only 72. Saving pictures at a higher dpi when they won't be printed out is unnecessary, and they'll take a lot longer for people to download. Then I set the size of the frame I want to crop my image at. I like squares, so I often do a 8 x 8-inch image; for rectangles, the standard 6 x 8-inch image is nice -- you can go bigger on these if that suits you, but keep the dpi set to 72. Then use your cropping tool to select the new area of the picture you want to include, and hit "Enter" to crop. Make sure that you are looking at your photo at 100%.

Once you have your image cropped, you can play around with the color. I almost immediately just go up to "Image" and choose "Adjustments/Curves." You'll see a diagonal line. This helps enhance the darks and lights in the photo. Play around with pulling dots on this line either above it or below it and watch what happens. The lighting of your photo will change. I choose two points -- one toward the top right corner, which I pull above center; one toward the bottom left corner, which I pull below. You want a smooth curve (no big zigs or zags), and a pleasing look. This is something you can experiment with until you like what you see. It's all to taste -- just play with it and get comfortable messing about. You can always try using the "Auto Color," "Auto Levels," and "Auto Contrast" functions, and they will sometimes work beautifully -- but not always. Just undo, and play with the Curves, or even the Levels, though I usually find that Curves gives me enough of what I like, and that's usually good enough for what I'm doing.

The last thing I do is "Filter/Sharpen" the image, but you need to be careful with this. If it's looking soft, sometimes sharpening can crisp things up for you, but there is no substitute for a properly focused, fairly well-lit photo. Too much "sharpening" can turn your image really grainy, and that's not good.

When you have something you like, go up to "File" and choose "Save for Web." I usually have it set to the tab with "4-up" showing, and that will optimize the image at different "qualities" for you to see. Look at the bottom left corner and see how the size and the time it will take to load changes. Choose the best-looking image at a fairly reasonable size and speed. Then rename it and save it. I never change my original, downloaded images; I always keep them exactly the way they come in off the camera in case I want to redo something. After I've Photoshopped an image, I always save it with a new name, as a jpeg, and use that newly saved beast for any sending or posting I want to do. I think it's a good habit to get into; I have often gone back to the original and given it another try and been grateful to have the opportunity.

I hope this helps. I used to really hate taking photos, especially product shots. Hate is not even a strong enough word. My photos never matched the visions I had for them. But learning just a little bit about how to make things look nicer has increased my enjoyment quite a bit, and I love taking pictures now because I can make them look closer to what I see. I don't seem to be able to take classes or read manuals very well, so if anyone has any tips (or corrections) they'd like to add, please don't hesitate to comment. I know I have a lot more to learn, and it's always been easier for me to learn something from friends.

December 27, 2005

This Year, I Finished It!

Finishedwreath I did, I finished it. It was not a quick project! But I desperately wanted to finish it by the end of the day on Christmas (knowing, of course, how quickly I am "over" Christmas the minute it passes, though I try not to be). When I was a kid, we always opened all of our presents on Christmas morning, rushed to mass, then retreated to whatever corners we could find at home and delved quietly into our new books, clothes, and craft stuff for several long hours before going to our grandma's for dinner. Every year for several years I would lie on my bed and draw something on Christmas afternoon -- for a long time, it was pictures from Camelot in colored pencil. I'd forgotten about this little tradition until Sunday: Andy unfortunately had to be at the hospital; our house was recovering from our party the night before, its prognosis poor (i.e.: I couldn't bring myself to really put everything back in order yet, feeling incomparably lazy); and I settled into the quiet, silver hours to finish my wreath, something just for me. It felt so much like those old afternoons spent drawing, thinking about the year, the special quiet magic of the day. I think some of that spirit found its way into the wreath. I didn't finish it until it had long been dark outside. I wished I had remembered to stitch a tiny "2005" into one of the leaves, for posterity. I guess it's not officially too late; we still have four more days of the year.

December 21, 2005

Socks like Brach's

Brachsandsocks_8 I tell my sister to come over this morning. "Okay, put on those socks and then stand on that chair."
     "I didn't shave my legs."
     "I don't think it will show. I'll Photoshop it for you if it does."
     "Why are you taking a picture of these? Are you going to sell them?"
     "No, I made them for my friend for Christmas and I have to give them to her soon."
     "I know, but why are you taking a picture of them?"
     "Because."
     "I love those kind of candies."
     "Dude, get on the chair."
    

December 18, 2005

Slow it Goes (or, A Progress Report)

Wreath2 Here starts my version of the Marie Claire Idees wreath. It took longer than I thought to wrap the sweater sleeves around the form, it being a curve and they being straight. The back is a mess of pins, but the front looks okay, I think. Consistently I was tempted to change the arrangement, or add something else, but then I would think, No, I want to see what happens when I constrain myself to a strict interpretation of their plan (other than color, obviously), even though my tendency is to do something other, out of habit, as we crafties generally do. I find great relief in this, and on the rare occasion that I make something just for myself, I almost always use a plan that's been designed by someone else, because damn I get tired sometimes.

It's the Sunday before Christmas and -- I feel like this last week really snuck up on me. Today is my day off and I am absolutely overjoyed for a little bit of time to myself. The wind has been ripping through our neighborhood for the past two nights -- I can't sleep at all. Friday night car alarms and various sirens volleyed their calls from every direction -- there were at least two going at any given time, off in the distance somewhere, but just loud enough so that I couldn't stop hearing them. When I woke early Saturday, I heard them still. Last night, no sirens, just that intermittent banging of things against windows and the whistle of drafts. I don't like wind. It puts me really on edge. I didn't wake until 9 a.m. which is about three hours later than usual, and it was lovely to wake up in a bedroom filled with sunlight! In the middle of winter. The wind clears the clouds and brings the sun. Really pretty.

Gingerbreadhouse This afternoon, gingerbread houses. Notice the plural. Arden is coming to spend the night, and I'd originally bought one for us to do together. Saw this one, in the current issue of Country Home magazine. Started to feel ever-so-slightly proprietary about how I wanted it to be. Knew she would feel the same (ever so slightly), being of strong creative genes herself. Got another house kit, and some Wheat Chex shingles for myself. Also, these little chocolate pebbles at Winco. What's a little ambition the week before Christmas? I have Olive, the Other Reindeer all cued up on the DVD player and I'm looking forward to some relaxing, crafting-with-a-kid time.

Ella Posie, our store, is closed from December 24th through January 1, and secretly I long for the vacation, and a good snowstorm. I'm going to try mightily not to think about how much bookkeeping I need to do for tax purposes (like, all of it, into the computer, for 2005, I'm so sad that I didn't keep on top of this the way I swore up and down I would when I was doing the exact same thing last year) and save it for January, and take this time to really reflect and recharge. And reorganize the studio.

If any of you have any inspiring paint colors, studio photos, or ideas that you can share with me or point me toward, I would love it, honestly. I feel quite uninspired by this task and desperately need the motivation. Oh, and by the way, I have no budget for this, other than for paint, so standing shelves, a table, some big cracker jars -- this is what I'm working with. I love the room itself so much, and I feel like I've just let it get out of control. I want to take everything out and then put half of it back in, in a better way. I'm going for a much sparser, more Scandinavian-like space. I need bigger pockets of air in my life in 2006.

December 13, 2005

Blue Paper Packages

Packages3 For those of us who have to mail the majority of our gifts, Christmas arrives earlier than ever. I got the last few things for my sweet little Chicago niece, Brooke (an enormous bouncing sort of rubber pig called a Rody -- adorable), and nephew, Max (red pleather cowboy backpack and matching rain boots) and happily settled in for the wrapping part. This year I bought a huge $25 roll of this turquoise wrapping paper with mod white sort-of squares, and I'll tell you, it is kind of nice to just know that everything is going to follow the same plan: blue paper, red-stripey string, little vintage stationery-supply sticker with recipient's name. There was no room to write "Love, Andy and Alicia" but something tells me there won't be a lot of doubt who these are from. My non-traditional Christmas-color habit is longstanding and . . . well-known and . . . tolerated . . . I think. I can't remember what I did last year, but the year before it was creamy powder-pink paper over a doily snowflake with black ribbon and handmade name tag, sort of Paris Christmas. I liked that one. We've had a mostly candy-colored theme for decorations in the house for the past few years, and I like that, too.

Andy's in charge of gifts for the men and his contribution is a cookbook of his favorite recipes (with help from the aforementioned Big Oven), written in his own inimitable narrative style and complete with a four-CD collection of music to listen to while cooking each meal: early U2 for the corned beef and cabbage St. Paddy's Day dinner, Built to Spill for the "Honeymoon in Lake Geneva" breakfast. This one starts, "First, put in CD and start some coffee. Alicia likes no-pulp OJ with two cubes. In a large frying pan, cook the bacon. . . ." Cute, no?

People have been coming in the store all day today a bit stressed out. It seems that the hectic part of the season is fast upon us, and that's kind of tough for everyone. I'm relentlessly strict with myself about getting things finished early, and I do force the hubby to share in the labor. I know the alternative is me, swearing my head off and sweating, and that's just not . . . in the spirit, somehow. I like to watch my Hallmark Channel Christmas movies while laying on the couch in a state of total lethargy, and once these blue babies are in the mail, you know I'll be TiVo-ing Boyfriend for Christmas with a cat on my lap and a Kahlua hot chocolate. And then I'll kick the cat off and really settle in.

December 12, 2005

Winter Afternoon

Winterafternoon The rare occasion of a quiet afternoon is such a treat. There is something so peaceful about the house in winter, with no TV, no radio, no hustle and bustle; it is rarely this way. I am not a napper -- in fact, I probably haven't taken a nap in the afternoon since toddlerhood, but I wish I'd thought of it today. Instead, we finally got out to see Pride and Prejudice. We are unabashed fans of the genre. Andy loved the movie, and appreciates such different details than I do -- the long, patient shot that starts on Lizzie, moves through the house, touches on all residents, then comes back to her, peeking into the house; the sturdy responsible-ness and apparent business acumen of the petulant Mr. Darcy; the sound of birds in scenes taking place indoors with open windows. It was really a lovely film, and has taken the lead on his list of 19th-century English novel-films. My fave is still the highly addictive Wives and Daughters by Mrs. Gaskell, but I am totally crazy about Justine Waddell (who plays Molly Gibson, the main character), which might have something to do with that. I prefer the film to the book, actually, but if you haven't yet caught either, I highly recommend both.

PillowcaseIn 19th-century novels, every time Our Heroine refers to embroidery as a sort of insipid, ridiculous occupation for a woman, I feel a bit hurt, I must admit, though I understand this attitude is quite forward-thinking for Her. But I'm not much good at recognizing the political context of any of my little occupations. I just like pretty things, and I like my initials on stuff, and I love birds. The embroidery part just keeps me out of trouble. But Trouble is usually Our Heroine's middle name, no? That's why we love Her so much.

December 11, 2005

This Year, I'll Finish It

Marieclairewreath From Marie Claire Idees December 2003 issue, this wreath has charmed me for years now. I'm sure you do this, too, but every month I like to pull all my favorite saved magazines from years past and do a little run-through to remind myself of what I liked, what I didn't have time to do last time, and what I might be ready to try now. This year -- today, in fact -- I'm saving time for this one. Isn't she pretty?

As far as I can tell (though being able to read Marie Claire Idees is reason enough to begin studying French again, I am still pathetic in my skills, je me regrette), this is two slit-down-the-seam  sweater sleeves wrapped around the form and stitched back up, little I-cord flowers and word, bead-and-embroidery-embellished leaves and flowers, and yarn-wrapped washers (at least that's what I've got) for "berries." The sweater I'm using is a pale, powdery blue, and I'll no doubt go for a red/pink detail thing, as usual.

I'd like to get into the habit of doing one pretty-substantial Christmas craft per year, something that I can be proud of and that I look forward to taking care of. MCI is so chock-full of beautiful holiday ideas that sometimes it can be overwhelming -- I have, on occasion, just screamed and launched the mag across the room in a hissy fit of I don't know what. Creative envy? Gratitude to the publisher? Despair over my own dust-bunny-populated digs? But generally, when that brown-papered, gloriously French-stamped parcel arrives in the post for me (I finally got tired of trying to find a place to park at the specialty magazine store, walking three blocks, and then having them tell me it wasn't in yet; so I have a subscription now), I hoot with glee, and go for it, bad translations notwithstanding.

November 21, 2005

Still Life with Pups, and Denial

Sticherystuff_1 I know, I'm still here going on about the sock pups. I found out on Friday night that my little Volvo needs $1,500 (gasp, gurgle, curse, honk) worth of stuff done so that it will continue to lovingly haul me around town. The news promptly threw me  into a flurry of panic. I wailed in horror, then hurled myself toward the sofa like a harassed manatee, fumbling to find a needle and thread, or a crochet hook, or some warm soft yarn to comfort me. Instead of thinking about the car, I busied myself  with my new heart-topped pins and pretty little spools of thread and cutie-pie stuffed pups (Joy, Pear, Pontouf, and Tot) with a single-mindedness that, I must say, was impressive. I managed not to think about the car until just a few minutes ago when I sat down to write this and looked out at the street and saw the you-know-what. Once again, I ask the universe, Why can't we all still ride horseback if we need to get around so bad? Man.

Felt lovers have spoken, and if you've heard back from me (as should have everyone who's commented about the felt giveaway up until this very minute) your felt should be on your way to you soon -- probably, honestly, after Thanksgiving, because I have to cook. If you were late in reading this, maybe I'll offer some more after the New Year; I'll let you know. For now, though, the felty offer has expired. Maybe everyone who does get some will show us what they eventually make with it? If you feel like it, I'd love to see.

November 17, 2005

By the Chimney, with Care

Pho_stock_illus_lg Oh, how I do love felt. It's so warm and beautiful and colorful and fun. I especially love it when I can make it out of sweaters that someone has already thrown into the washing machine, probably on accident, and donated to Goodwill. I just want to extend a big thank you to those unlucky peeps, and to my husband, Andy Paulson, who apparently invented going to Goodwill, as he informed me this weekend as we made our way around Puddletown to various locations. (In case you didn't know, as I really didn't, who invented the art of going to Goodwill, it was he, so don't go thinking you might have been the first, or even possibly that someone else was the first, because you weren't, nor were they, it was Andy.) Anyway, there are not many things better than pulling a big huge fluffy load of wool out of the dryer on purpose. Hence were born these stockings, which cheer me so.

Thank you (and here I utterly forgo all sarcasm) to everyone for your incredibly sweet comments on the posts below. I am moved and humbled to read them, and your further insights into the topics are fascinating, funny, encouraging, and so valuable to me -- thank you. As promised, I have some answers to some of the questions people asked in comments that I thought I'd post here, honestly not knowing what the proper etiquette would be, so I hope this is okay. . . .

About the turquoise felt bag: It's one of my first, actually. It's crocheted then felted from either Cascade 220 or NatureSpun -- I can't remember -- worsted weight, and I was inspired by a pattern in the Fall/Winter 2005 issue of Family Circle Easy Crochet. As with so much that I make, I didn't use the pattern exactly. And I used half-double crochet, which I think goes (grows) faster than single, and I like the more textured result. I actually prefer crocheted/felted items better than knitted/felted. I like seeing the original stitches a bit, and crocheting results in a thicker finished thing, which I like too. But anyway, I'm sure this issue is still out there and you'll probably have better results if you pick it up and use their pattern than if I try to remember mine, which pretty much results in the same shape. A sack is a sack, after all. I've done a few others that live in the shop only, made out of stripes generated by the Random Stripe Generator, at right. This web site is absolutely addictive if you like stripes. If you haven't tried this thing, I urge you to play around with it a bit, especially if you're trying to use up your stash.

About the sour cream apple pie recipe: It's the best, most beautiful, and yummiest pie ever, but that's just my opinion. A few months ago, in an effort to find a way of automating our shopping list and easing our problems actually making dinner instead of, say, popcorn, I found a recipe-management web site called BigOven.com. I can't say this is the best one by any means because I really have no idea, but I think it's quite cool. They have a library of 140,000 recipes or something that you can access and share, and you can store as many of your own personal recipes as you want -- providing you have the energy to retype them (which I am in the process of doing. Even though they have it set up so that you just type the first few letters of an ingredient and it fills the rest it for you, this still takes quite a while, and it has the maddening habit of capitalizing random words, which drives me crazy, but I let it go, sigh). The reason this is all worth it, though, is the shopping list function: You add recipes to your "calendar" and it automatically generates a shopping list that is cumulative and organized by grocery aisle. Nice. You have to buy the software -- I can't remember how much it was, maybe $30, but I think as a member I can send you some kind of coupon for friends, so let me know if you want to try it. I originally got the recipe for this pie from my chef-friend Kristin via a 1992 issue of Gourmet, but I just use packaged pie dough -- like the Pillsbury kind. Don't try to stuff it into a frozen pie shell because it will overflow and start a little fire in your oven, like it did in mine Thanksgiving of  '96, and give your pie a barbecued taste, which is not what you're going for with this creamy delight. (If you're going for flashing lights, sirens, and four enormous firemen with axes and boots tromping through your studio apartment where you are cooking a surprise dinner for your boyfriend who had to work on Thanksgiving and was feeling a little homesick, this being Missoula and home being Chicago, then use the frozen shell. The performance will leave your nerves so jangled that you'll completely lose your appetite, and wind up getting up, starving, at 5 a.m. the next morning to enjoy a giant and private piece of pie while sitting on the sofa while said boyfriend sleeps [he having missed all the nerve-jangling action and proceeding blissfully to eat himself into a nice tryptophan-induced 10-hour slumber], thinking to yourself, "Hmmm . . . this tastes like . . . hamburgers.")

I digress. What I wanted to say today was really only this: I have a TON of wool felt, on the bolt, from National Nonwovens, in just about every color. I bought it several years ago and have since had to admit that I won't use it all in a thousand lifetimes, and I'd like to share it*. I have scraps and I have yardage, and if you need some (and, as above, who doesn't?) please let me know. I'll bung some in a box and ship it off to you and then you can figure out what to do with it. You'll actually be doing me a favor, I swear, since I just bought a few scrap bags from the Denyse Schmidt web site and I'm going to have my hands full with that, any minute now.

*Note added later: I'm not selling it -- I'm just going to give mixed pieces of it away (for a little while, at least) so we don't have to worry about colors, how much, etc. I'll just surprise you. It's an early Christmas present! Just leave a comment and I'll email you when I get a sec.

November 08, 2005

Felting Myself

Feltybag I don't know if this happens to other people who have TiVo, but I've noticed this strange tendency in myself during the last year that we've had it to not pay very close attention in real life, thinking (mistakenly, of course) that I can just rewind and re-listen if I really want to. If you're not sure what TiVo is, it's basically a digital recorder that is always "on" when you're watching TV, so you can record things with the press of a button on your clicker. You can then fast-forward and rewind at will (and also use the search engine function to search for movies or actors or subjects or whatever you want, but that's another topic entirely).

Anyway, when you're watching TV and you have TiVo, you have the perpetual option of rewinding everything, immediately, and re-watching it with ease. It's hard to explain how simple this is until you try it, but suffice it to say, when you get your TiVo, you will find yourself rewinding live TV constantly. For instance, last night on Arrested Development we replayed the scene of Lucille "laughing" about three times, and it got funnier and funnier. The rewind function is also good if you didn't hear what someone said, or if you just want to see something in the background this time, etc. You get what I mean. It's extremely convenient.

Well, a couple of months ago Andy and I both confessed to a separate but persistent tendency to want to "rewind" regular life, just for a sec, to hear something more clearly, slow it down, watch it again. Me: "What'd that guy say?" He: "I don't know, rewind it." Me: "Can't. It's real life. Darn real life!" Of course, this is the obvious result of way too much TV in general, yes, but I would be curious to know if any regular-type TiVo watchers want to do the same thing. Do you do this?

I've noticed the same thing happening with regard to . . . felt. Like, I keep thinking, as I go through my day, "Well, it'll probably look a lot different (i.e.: better) when it's felted." Which is true if you're actually knitting/crocheting something to be felted, but decidedly not true of things like your hair. Dinner. This outfit. When you knit or crochet something to be felted, you basically make something about twice as big and floppy and droopy as you can stand, because during the magical felting process, all is tightened, smoothed, and squeezed into permanent shape.

But, when you are getting dressed in the morning, something that doesn't work is to be too lazy to blow dry and smooth out your hair and just think, instead, "No problem -- it'll look better when it's felted." If you overcook the pasta, and ruin your whole dinner, something that doesn't work is to think, "Can't we felt that?" If you are trying to get dressed after a week of laying on the couch with the flu and your outfit seems generally wrinkled, floppy, and disheveled, don't think, "I just need to felt all this." If you're butt has actually grown during the week you laid on the couch, unfortunately you won't be able to felt it. You can want to, but it won't work. I feel like I could really use a good felting, and get these puckered edges smoothed and shrunk.

October 31, 2005

Doggies in the Window

Stuffiegallery Be careful what you ask me for. Predictably, I tend to get a little carried away. My niece asked for a amigurumi kitty cat for her seventh birthday, so of course she's getting a whole litter of critters. Here are, from left to right, Meggie, Cocoapuff, Herb, Holly, Peabody, Fleur, Dilly, Maggie, Merry, and Bun. They all have little I-cord collars and will have their own Shrinky Dink nametags by the end of the afternoon.

It's a rainy, blustery day here and I have a sore throat and feel like I'm getting sick. But these guys are so bright and cheery I hardly mind. Happy Halloween!

October 11, 2005

A Double-Agent

Feltyballs_2

This picture of felted balls represents the sum total accomplishments for my weekend. The paranoia can't be photographed, but it's there, too. It's the result of an entire Sunday watching Alias on DVD to try and catch up with a show I'd never watched until about two weeks ago. Being a Spy Girl wanna-be (Harriet the Spy, Veronica Mars), I am shocked that we are so slow to catch on to this. I've never watched a TV show on DVD until this, and I have to say -- FUN. No commercials, plenty of behind-the-scenes, gag reel stuff to satisfy, and none of that "Ohmigod-I-can't-believe-that-just-happened-now-what-are-they-gonna-do?"-until-next-week stuff. Now we just keep pressing play, play, play. And we still have several seasons to get through.

That said, however, and feeling completely secure with the choice to do absolutely nothing on a beautiful fall day -- you just gotta have one of these every once in a while -- a new, more paranoid reality seems to haunt my non-TV-watching life. A guy crossed our street yesterday afternoon carrying an umbrella and talking on a cell phone. He glanced up at our house. I happened to be passing the window and instinctively ducked behind the curtain. So he wouldn't see me, apparently. I don't know. A few nights before I dreamed that I was part of SD-6 and we had invented a new kind of Swiss cheese, but it was called "coco." We had also invented a new kind of lunch meat, but it was called "wormwood." People chased me all night long trying to get to them. Unlike Sydney, karate kicks don't come naturally, and I dragged legs made of sand around after me, through the foggy, orange-y streets. . . .

The antidote to this high-tech brain melt appears to be felting balls, by hand, all afternoon. It's the absolute antithesis, I think. Spy Girl/hand-felter. I'm a double agent.