Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day Fun

The two happiest words in the language? "Snow day!"

My son will rarely go down a slide without a helping hand, but whooped with delight the faster he spun his way down the hill.

Here's our house, from the bottom of our back yard.

We've got space and slope enough for some fun times on the sled or saucer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Craigs List Addiction

Craig is my homeboy! I cruise his list for all my whims and wishes.

My luck with the site is spotty, but patience and persistence nearly always pay off. I generally search for the same items each week, skimming for what's available, how it is priced, and where it is located.

After months with zero results for "director's chair" there are suddenly plenty available, and at 20% the cost of a new one. I now have a tall, portable throne on which to perch at craft fairs so that I'm nearer to eye-level with browsers and shoppers.

Around the holidays, I found this great chrome garment rack with adjustable arms that will be just right for craft shows.

I'm still in need of a dolly/hand truck, a patio set, and some other miscellany, but the hunt is nearly as fun as bagging my game.

PS: Another CraigsList activity I find intriguing is typing my own town into the search bar just to see what people in my community are trying to get rid of (mostly vehicles and boats). The "Missed Connections" are a reader's treat as well.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Two Recent Reads

Some Things That Stay, by Sarah Willis, is a good, solid story with a perspective I haven't seen before.

The main character is ashamed of her intellectual, atheist parents. Wherever they move--and they move each spring--the children are outcasts by fault of their parents refusal to blend in or back off.

The adolescent state of mind is captured accurately, yet somehow not infuriatingly or condescendingly. The events are atypical, as are the relationships.

I was interested and appreciative of the writing, yet never riveted or unable to go to sleep instead of reading further.

Regarding Playful Parenting, by Lawrence J. Cohen

I felt that better organization would have improved the reading experience. Much skimming was needed to locate information most relevant to my child and I.

Although I agree with much of what the author presents, and have put some ideas into practice, what I read was awfully anecdotal and specific to a select group of children.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Dreamy Day

I spent part of Monday in St. Louis to chase down some Craigslist deals, cheesemaking supplies, and bargain goods.

As much as I enjoy the rural life, there's no comparison to cities (and even some suburbs) when it comes to shopping and dining options.

The aisles of Whole Foods Market had me inhaling deeply to appreciate each sumptuous scent.

The Kitchen Conservatory was drool-worthy for entirely different reasons.

And what a day of kismet! Every place I went, I ended up in conversation with someone with whom I had a lot in common:
--the friendly clerk at REI grew up a mile from the house where I now live (70 miles from that store), and I work with his mother;
--a woman in line behind me to try on deep-discount clothing has ulcerative colitis too, and we commiserated about meds and side effects;
--a woman I met to buy a chair via Craigslist was also a teacher, and had a son the same age as mine;
--immediately after deciding reverse applique is so fun that I want to do a lot more, I found a pile of plain tee shirts on the clearance rack at Target.
--the exact items I intended to buy for my husband and son were 50% off of sale prices.

[Sorry for the picture-less post...don't you just hate those?]

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rolling out more inventory

I'm really hooked on embellishing clothing lately. It's so much fun to pair fabrics and choose designs.

This jacket is soooo soft and cozy. If it were a size larger, I'd be greedy and keep it for myself.

Pictured above is my first attempt at reverse-applique. I found the process really fun, and the stretchy material of this long sleeve tee by Mossimo wasn't as finicky to deal with as I'd expected. Again, if it were my size...

This Eddie Bauer jacket now sports a swirly dove in a favorite Moda fabric.

This one IS in my size! A mechanic's cut Gap jacket now boasts a tree made from two Moda fabrics I adore. Green is the new black, but black still makes a statement!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Skin Care Revolution/Revelation

Confession time.

I didn't have much acne trouble as an adolescent. When, in 9th grade, I began to get pimples on my forehead and the sides of my face, I simply stopped using hair spray (it was the 80's) and the zits pretty much went away. I appreciated my clear-skin luck.

Pregnancy, however, brought with it frequent and ugly blemishes. I attributed it to hormone differences, but although my son arrived nearly four years ago, two or three marks continue to plague me each week.

I thought I knew what to do. I used a cotton swab with quality astringent every morning, and sometimes spot treated later in the day. After a friend confided that a the magic formula for drying them out, I sometimes slept with a dab of toothpaste on my pimples.

Last week, I read a headline on the Yahoo homepage: Six Biggest Skin Care Mistakes. It informed me that drying agents did not help, and might even exacerbate my problem.

Vanity convinced me to quit the Neutragena astringent.

In the past week, I've used only water to wash my face, then followed up with the Aveeno moisturizer + SPF that I like.

I did end up with a few more pimples than usual, but they were small, faintly hued, and quick to depart. A quick brush of powder all but eliminated them from sight.

Just like eliminating hair spray, this simple change has drastically improved my appearance. Check out the short article linked above. Maybe you can feel good about your skin again too!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Catching Genius, by Kristy Kiernan

Though I found the early chapters somehow off-putting, I ended up sticking with this book the other morning and completed it by nightfall.

I can't quite relate to any of the characters, yet I found them engaging and realistic. The awkward, distant, and floundering relationships between the estranged sisters (and among stoic parents and children) are compellingly, if not openly, honest. The characters' maternal motivations are also rendered with accuracy and compassion.

Kiernan has the ability to tell a pleasantly ambling story with a palette of emotional contexts and a beguiling sense of place and objects. She's neither cautious nor vicious with her characters' lives, doling out deliberately real confrontations, convictions, and connections at an exacting pace.

The jacket tells little of Kiernan's life experience, but I came away with the impression that she was not often writing what she knew, and was successful nonetheless.

The book at times struck me as an opposite to The Last Summer (of You and Me), by Anne Brashares.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cheese-Making at Home

I lived near a cheese factory in Wisconsin until I was twelve, and therefore grew up spoiled by fresh cheeses, and since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by the marvelous Barbara Kingsolver, I've been interested in taking a cheese-making class.

Local Harvest, the same web site that will help you find local honey, eggs, meat, or a CSA group to join, includes listings for cheese classes. Yesterday, a friend and I attended a casual kitchen class. There were thirteen of us there, all having traveled from within a radius of about 80 miles.

Seated in straight-back chairs in a tight circle, we beheld the ingredients, the process, and the flavors possible. We were able to participate, and to ask boundless questions, and to taste the results: chevre, feta, ricotta, cheddar, bleu cheese, and even yogurt. (Some had been prepared, salted, and slightly aged in advance, though we still learned how to make them.)

I was impressed with the instructor's frank, no-nonsense and unedited verbal style, good humor, and the mass of knowledge she's gleaned from trial and error after some classes with a Michigan instructor. The homey, lived-in environment was certainly not health-inspector ready, but the experience was reminiscent of learning from an auntie in her well-worn kitchen. This aspect made it feel more authentic rather than institutionalized.

The most surprising thing I learned? Cheeses all begin with the same basic ingredients. Time and temperature create flavor differences.

I bought some rennet, and the above book. Now, all I need is the time to take up yet another hobby!

The response I've had regarding this class has been amazing. Friends, colleagues, and vague acquaintances have asked myriad questions and expressed their own passion for cheeses. It's been a great reminder of the power of word-of-mouth, and the siren song of DIY.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More Recent Projects, More Photo Efforts

Since it's a snow day--actually an ice day--and I'm unexpectedly off work, I played around with settings on my camera this morning.
I took a series of pictures of five different items in the same lighting, with the same background, but with different settings on the camera: 1) a custom setting I came up with after doing some Internet research; 2) a manual setting determined from the same research, but with some differences; 3) the auto setting.

The results?
There is no visible difference between the custom and auto settings.
The manual setting was so overexposed that no image registered.

Somehow, I still ended up with better images. It seems that the greater the contrast is between my white background and the items being photographed, the clearer the image (as seen with the peace jacket and pale brown jacket as opposed to the pastel tree jacket).

Shabby Chic Jacket

This lavender jacket is made of soft corduroy, and has been embellished with a woven decorator fabric.
alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5288169428906777842" />
I've gotten twelve jackets done now, with about six more "blanks" ready to be sewn. I sure hope that shoppers like them as well as I do.

I sure wish I could figure out how to take more consistent photos. The poor quality of my pictures has been bothering me, and playing with my camera settings hasn't been yielding better results. It's a growing concern which bothers me all the more since I'm scheduled to be featured on StLHandmade in March. I fear my photos will be a turn-off.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When Positive Ideas Lead to Negative Actions

My Review of Tree Sitter, by Suzanne Matson

The characterization in this story is authentic, yet soft-focused with the polite remove of gentility.

There are some beautiful, ruminative sentences in this book. For example: "..time seemed infinitely generous when you were awake at sunrise. You could see vistas, you could let intention gradually take shape" (203), and "Just because you knew something was behind you, and that you'd never get it back, didn't mean you were finished with it, or ever would be" (241).

There are also some sentences whose meaning and delivery I appreciate, even when they demand a second reading for clarity: "After the initial vertigo of loss--I'd been so certain, and if not Preston, then no one, no father--I grew to like the sound of it: Guardian" (97).

All in all, with the exception of priviledge afforded by wealth, I can easily walk in the shoes of Julie, the narrator. I could certainly have fallen for a brilliant, intense grad student with a passion for environmental activism and followed him across the country for the good of the trees. And the rest.

Mine, All Mine!

I treated myself to a KeykaLou pattern and made this sweet bag for myself.

There are plenty of pockets, the handle is the perfect length, and the corduroy backing helps the strap stay on my shoulder. If you sew, I recommend her full color PDF patterns with detailed instructions.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Buying Happiness

Yes, happiness is for sale. The trick is finding it, and being able to afford it.

Meet my happy little man. I bought him at a junk-store on New Year's Eve.

He lives with my family now. We're all smiling about him.