Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Inspired by A Year of Mornings:
Sylvan's toast ends, with locally made blueberry jam bits.

This is how our kitchen counter usually looks. A bit of messy clutter, including things like puzzle pieces (the clever 10 year-old has done the puzzle twice and I am completely stymied by it), colored pencils, my new favorite cookbook (breakfast reading), someone's balled-up drawing, receipts, lists, etc. There's nothing I like more than a clean expanse of kitchen work space, but it never lasts long.
I started cutting fabric for the quilt! And already made one cutting error that I will need Alewives Girl's advice on, eventually (a piece that was meant to be 6.5x10.5 and is actually 6.0x10.5---ugh). And do you notice in the background---my new cutting guide and super duper rotary cutter? Total pleasure to have nice sharp good tools to use.

I wonder how I will decide which pieces to put next to what? I am so in love with these fabrics that my heart sings each time I see them. (This is also how I describe the feeling of seeing my husband and kissing my children, so it's pretty good.)

Blessings on your new year. May it be filled with balance, joy, creativity, and laughter. And also maybe superhuman powers of organization and discipline. (That's what I am manifesting.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Food for Thought

Some books to get your hands on for inspiration.

1. Apples for Jam: A Colorful Cookbook by Tessa Kiros.
Our friend Hannah has a phrase for those amazing cookbooks that have stunning photographs and great recipes: "food porn." Yes, this from a woman who is usually off and on with sugar, has been on plenty of elimination diets for allergies, and sometimes eats marshmallow Fluff by the tubful. I love to read cookbooks, literally cover-to-cover. This one is organized by color and is full of these wonderfully Mediterranean recipes, really comfort food stuff. And not all of it is like WOW, amazingly difficult. Sometimes simple is best. Last night we had pasta with tomato sauce and shrimp and it was perfectly lovely. On the cover are a pair of child's red buckle shoes, and if you know me and red shoes, you will know that I fell in love with this book on sight.

2. A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart by Vettese and Barnes.
How tacky is it to not even thank the gift-giver yet, but make a blog post about their amazing and perfect gift? This book. Oh, this book! The authors found each other in the blogosphere and realized they shared a similar aesthetic and decided to collaborate on posting a diptych of one photo from each of them throughout a year. Check out their webpage and if you scroll down you can see some of these shots to get a flavor (Mary Nanna, this book might be some more inspiration for you!). To the gift-giver, who knows me like a sister even though we are 1158 miles apart...You are still my girl.

3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.
OK, yeah, so you read it here first...Remember when I told you about this book? And now it seems like everyone is reading this?! Ha. Well, I called it. And fine, if you'll recall it was a total impulse buy, purchased purely on the title, but no matter. I am here to report that it really was an amazing novel whose story unfolds like a delicate flower. The story is about two female main characters who are outrageously intelligent, but for their own reasons they choose to keep a low profile about their rich inner lives. At times funny and poignant, I was truly astonished many times over by the rich story and excellent translation from the French, often stopping in my tracks to digest a luscious sentence.

A few other things of note:
These tattoos posted by helloyarn (who has recently suffered a canine loss)
This and this lady who often have me laughing at my keyboard
This amazing artist of wearable art
These lovely photos
The Alewives Girl blogged about my reusable shopping totes!

A much-needed home day without company is coming my way tomorrow and I hope to have some pictures to show you soon!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Busy Hands

Edible wreath by Joanie.
(She says: freeze the cookie cut-outs before you arrange them in the wreath form for best results.)

An art quilt pillow for E, Jonas's friend and previous recipient of this hat! The great thing about a crafty girl like E is that we have so much fun making presents for her...inspired by her craftiness, getting our own craft on. Jonas and I each made a side. Can you guess who made which?
Remember I mentioned that video by Traci Bautista? Well in it, she makes an art quilt cover for a book, and this is what got Jonas and I into the art quilt idea.
The beauty of it? No pins, no straight lines. Just fun. And perfect for a beginner like Jonas, because there are no mistakes per se.
We used scraps of fabrics and laid them all on some heavy weight interfacing in the designs that appealed to us. At the end, I finished the pillow sides with edging pieces. I love how different both sides are.
Busy hands around the dining room table with my mom,
my brother (who has a show upcoming and is finishing some pieces),
and Jonas and Sylvan.
And now, back to the kitchen: Prepare sweet potatoes, make pie crust to chill, make soup for tonight's meal. Oh and probably lunch, eventually. And so I will be taking a small intermission from blogging to enjoy the family that will be with us these next few days! See you on the other side of it. Enjoy peace and good meals with loved ones!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some endings, some beginnings

These mitts will be under the tree soon...for a gentleman who seldom reads this blog. It was about 9 degrees F on the morning of this photo shoot and I was on my way to work. I told my model to give me some William Wallace style arm shots (and be quick about it, or I would be late), referencing the movie Braveheart, in which our favorite line is Mel Gibson bellowing: Freeeeeeedommmmmm! Unfortunately my model was not wearing a kilt or else I would most certainly have shared photos.
The pattern is from Knitty, called Dashing. As in: Dashing through the snow? Or what a dashing fellow? The yarn is Brown Sheep Charcoal.
Reusable Shopping Bags Completed!
The last of the five Reusable Bags is complete (here and here for the others). It was crazy that the last two bags (both using this fabric) provided me with much angst with regard to interiors not seeming to want to match neatly with exteriors. So some extra annoying little tucks were necessary. ANYway. They are finished and ready to be gifted, and I admit relief that none of the bags are going to anyone who is an expert at sewing...They are still lovely and functional even if they are not perfect.
So do you imagine me resting on laurels now, relaxing by the hearth? Pfft. No, I already have another project on the needles, this hat, meant to be a hardhat liner for troops. It is annoying because it relies on a chart to create the short-row earflaps, and I would prefer regular words. But it's great and warm and will be for Jonas, perfect for under the ski helmet!

And, oh mild boredom, in that I think he may have entered the phase of gray/black/brown in knitwear (unless it could be red, which I did not have in the stash). So I am using the same Brown Sheep Charcoal as for the mitts.

I see shoveling in my future and I will be using my abs, not my back, thank you very much. It is looking good for a white Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Spiral,
part of a very long swirly-snow path all over our property, made by Jonas and a friend.

Ice patterns on the window of the car as we rode in to school at 7:30.
I wasn't driving.
Quilt Story Begins...
This is the quilt we received for our wedding, almost ten years ago. It was commercially made, but lovely. Now, you can see, the batting is visible and the fabric on the quilt top is mostly so soft you can barely feel it.

Here are the goodies from Alewives Fabrics, picked up by Jake, in a snowstorm on their men's sale night. I had made a previous visit to pick out the essentials... It's a quilt called Turning Twenty, and the twenty refers to the twenty fat quarters it is comprised of. I decided to go with the bundle of fat quarters that made me most excited, not the one that would have matched my Wales Green (Ben Moore) bedroom.
One time out at dinner with Kate, she said that a lot of times you're at a restaurant and order what you think you "should" order. I took her advice that night and totally revised my selection at the last moment and got a plate of the most mind-altering brussels sprouts ever. I don't even like brussels sprouts. So I picked the color palette that felt like WOW, instead of SHOULD. Because not only will I be spending considerable time on the project, I plan to spend lots of years sleeping under it.
Close up on the future quilt edging, above.
The quilt backing material, above. This is so APA's favorite type of fabric! I felt her in the store with me as I was selecting it. I will be wrapping these goodies up and placing them beneath our tree! So exciting. I am hoping Santa will provide a new rotary cutter and plastic ruler grid thing (quilters, is there a neater way to say that?) to go with. Woo Hoo!

Tea and Cookies
The making of a Snicker Doodle. Not my most favorite cookie, although I did eat two, but boy do they smell unbelievable while they bake. These are from our Kindergarten holiday party this morning.

I am working like mad to finish two more reusable shopping bags. All of the 50 Eichenlaub Annuals are out or spoken for and we need about 10 more to really do it right.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Unfocused, Sort of Productive

My most very favorite childhood ornament.

I don't have any sewing pictures yet because today I am still cleaning the house. But not very methodically, as is my usual custom, more random...getting side-tracked frequently by the distractions of laundry, starting a fire, the chaos of the dining room table, someone's underpants on the floor in the living room (small, with fire engines---not mine), making piles to give away and piles to throw away. But a lot of cobwebs are gone now. My side of the desk is orderly. The laundry continues.
Tonight, Alewives Fabrics has their Men's Only Sale Night!!! I went and picked out our holiday gift to each other: the ingredients needed to make a new quilt for our bed. Thanks to Rhea for the kind help. You know she thanked me for my post about the store and told me I really made the store look great. I had to reply...Ummm, I actually just snapped a few pictures of a store that looks great already!!! My hubby is going there after work, and the snowy roads be damned. I know why I married him.

So let me introduce you to a couple of my favorite ornaments:
Made by Jake's mom, aka Grandma Nance.

Made by, or painted by (or both?) Carrie. The colors are better in person.

We have a box of molto fragile ornaments by the amazing Hannah. The sleepy mousie with acorn head is nestled in a milkweed pod. And the hummingbirds...maple seed wings and pine cone heads?! Come on. Fabuloso!
The knitting basket.

I love the way the light plays through this one.

So back to my scattered-style clutter-clearing, cleaning sort of day. Hopefully I will have a nice morning of just sewing tomorrow! I have two more shopping bags to crank out!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Preparations All Day

Christmas cookies by Sylvan. He went in big for massive quantities of colored sugar (surprised?) and in the top photo if you look carefully you can see a pair of red-sprinkled Christmas Pants, of his own making.

Another productive Sunday, filled with the smells of butter and sugar. Not so much a day for crafting, though. But housecleaning and readying ourselves for the family that will start trickling in next Friday and trickling out the following weekend. It will be family from both sides and we really do enjoy them all. I am a little sad to be working a few of those days, but it will be a nice calm change from the scene here at home!

This man, my husband Jake, is in charge of the meals and menus.
He loves planning out things in charts, dates, numbers of people present, etc. This photo is from a series where he was practicing looking cool and aloof in photos, getting coached by one of the best men for the job, Ryan.
Here's my mailbag for tomorrow; I hope you are not in line behind me at the PO, it might be a long wait. Packages for four different destinations. Eichenlaub Annuals beginning to make their way out into the world. I have been pining for a large stapler and on three occasions had the opportunity to borrow one...and forgot. The Annuals are slow to staple with just a standard size. Sorry to whine.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Art Date Hooray!

"Sarah's friends were doubtful about their chances of getting in." (That's a St. Nicholas chocolate coin wrapper on there.)

The kids went to school. The table was cleared and wiped, set for breakfast for two, with a candle. The woodstove was toasty. The cinnamon oatmeal was providing the aromatherapy. Kimberly came and we ate and chatted, then chatted and made ATCs together for a few hours. It felt like a day at the spa. It's amazing how the cards make themselves when you're not paying attention.
This series of three has little tea bag fortunes, with a word or two written inside:

This is a note to self, when my nagging becomes something...else, not necessarily physical. But words do take on different meanings, when the tone is considered. My tone is sometimes aggravated, annoyed, or irritated, especially when I have delivered the same message multiple times:
"All the comforts of your home:"
"Most likely to stick it to the man:"
"We're sorry..."Some of these will make their way into the envelopes with the ATC Jam cards, returning to their collaborators!

And because of my nourished morning, I am not yelling at the monkeys who are playing loud, roughhouse games in close proximity to me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An A1 Day

Some of us were having birthdays, Ryan (32) and Jonas (10), and we celebrated with birthday lunch in scenic Gardiner, at the A1 Diner. It was freezing cold outside (14 F) and kind of brisk inside---you could tell that there is little insulation going on in the floor at A1, because it's really a historic diner car from the 1940s that is somehow suspended on stilts by the bridge?! So cool. And such amazing food: classic diner food like burgers (local beef) and meat loaf as well as things like Mojito Duck Breast and Asian noodle bowl with 3 types of soy. Really the best french fries ever (and they are real, not from some frozen package) , with little bits of delicious salt on them. Mmmm.
But really the day was about my 10 year-old boy, Jonas. And the day we first met him, in a hospital that was really groovy and absolutely fine with the four grandparents, uncle, and photographer in attendance at the birth. How I trusted Jake so completely to care for me, so I could do the important work of relaxing and letting my body do its work. How Jake was perched on one bumcheek on the side of the bed supporting me and how my stepdad was holding the rest of him up. The first thing Jonas heard in this loud, unwatery world, was the sound of his parents' laughing; there were other moist eyes in the room, but we were overcome with laughter. Here was someone in our arms who was a total stranger to us a moment ago! Everyone saw that Jonas was a boy before we even knew it!
He has always been a storyteller and story-lover, and sometimes a poet. He loves words. He sees numbers like a map in his head. He has always been hungry for the world. He has always known who he is. He has always been my teacher. He is an artist.
It is sometimes hard for us because we are so alike. He can be difficult and rigid and so can I. He has always pushed for more of everything. He is immensely talented. He is sometimes ill-suited to childhood in that he usually has a clear picture in his mind of how things should and can be. I am certain this is how I was as a child (bossy, difficult, not easily maneuvered by adults), and perhaps sometimes how I am now.
Jonas is my boy who is full of twinkles in the blue eyes that come from Nana. He is funny and generous, caring and thoughtful. It has been an adventure to know him these 10 years and I can't remember a time before.