Saturday, January 30, 2010

Coming out of the fog

We've had a lot of this recently. Our normal TV policy (avoidance) was overruled in favor of sickie benefits. Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder and countless National Geographic wild animal movies helped poor O pass the 'flu-filled hours. Today, a light at the end of the tunnel! A smile, a laugh, a bath, a waddle from the cozy nook in the couch, and even a call for... cake? Well, I caved. If the first word uttered in 3 quiet, still days was "cake" then my boy shall have it. Thank you, Gophers. In spades.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Inspired Home

A lot of you are following along with our struggle to design our house. We're working on it with fervor right now and it feels great to make some measurable progress! I thought I'd share some of our inspiration with you:

:: Mary's house in Marquette - the one we are trying to evoke aesthetically. Kind of a Prairie style but with a bit of a Japanese feel. She's got amazing views of the lake.

:: The Tills Home is absolutely beautiful and moreover, built sustainably in the Midwest (Madison, WI) so they too have to deal with snow and tough seasons.

:: Sjodin Home is a little more exotic. We won't be going this way in terms of green building and size (plus, they're in Austin TX - with some milder weather), but they have some clever ideas and good links.

:: Japanese-Prairie Home is kind of the style we're thinking of. For the exterior anyway. The interior is a little too mountain log home for our taste.

:: This eco-groovy home employs a lot of the principals that we're after (good Frank Lloyd Wright influences) but it cost a fortune. We're hoping we don't go down that road exactly.

:: The land - this is, I suppose, what inspires our design the most. Unfortunately, our views are to the North and we're rather reticent to move our main living areas (living room and kitchen) to the South side of the house for all of the solar gain and efficiency benefits. It's a tough compromise, but right now the view is winning.

Overall, the concept is a ranch, with a small second-story room we're calling the cupola. Sort of a reading nook, sleeping porch, "away room" (ala Sarah Susanka), if you will. Frank Lloyd Wright is a big influence on the design, as is the view, our lifestyle (hard-working mudroom and scullery/kitchen are essential), and green building principles. Getting it all to fit is both fun and vexing. Compromise is a necessity. That's where we're at. 

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

So-so sew

Ah yes, the kimono slipper. It wasn't pretty. I made some holiday gifts using Amy Karol's house slipper pattern and some pretty kimono fabric I got from Britex years ago. (Another patient spouse episode. Darling, I love you.) Within 10 minutes of wearing, the kimono fabric had frayed away from the seam and Karen's toes were sticking out. Kud put them on and instantly slid across the floor. That worried me more than the fraying fabric. With Kud's propensity for broken bones, a simple kimono slipper could have turned into another trip to the orthopedic surgeon. I don't want that on my gifting conscience. So far so good with Jods. Jods: consider this your warning.

But it was just another poor sewing episode that just got me a bit down and made me feel like I'm stuck in a rut. Bags bags bags. Ever since I closed the Phat Pharm, I've been steadily decreasing my sewing skills. Although I mostly did patchwork and mostly did the same improvised patterns, at least I was sewing regularly enough to stay somewhat skilled at it. I've done some quilts (patchwork again!), and a toy or two, some toddler clothes, but mostly just bags. Bags in most shapes or forms are comfortable to me and I'm okay improvising and winging it. I've come to fear and loathe patterns and I seem to lack the patience to see a patterned project to completion. In fact, that is it in a nutshell: the successful projects were the ones I made up, like Oliver's play food and gussett pants and a knit cotton shirt I cut and sewed into a cardigan with a snazzy button, and some little art projects. The major bummer projects were the ones I used patterns on (slippers and jammies to name just 2).

Our local quilting store, Alley Kat's, is having a Sewing 101 class, for beginning sewers who want to make garments. It starts this week when I'm out of town, so looks like it won't work out. But I'd really like to take it if she offers it again. I'm not necessarily a begining sewer, but I have heaps to learn. It could force me to slow down, read a pattern, learn about knits and stretch, and possibly avoid the kimono slipper syndrome. Or maybe I should just take a lesson from Darling. He followed a pattern (not having sewn much at all before) and made me a flannel nightgown... made his dad a work apron... Hmmm, stew on that. I just may not be cut out for fine tailoring.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


We took an alternate route for the wooden kitchen, but the destination is the same: cooking. Or, "coookin" as Oliver says. This is truly a hit. And I'm so glad, because with a car, a train, "animuls", drums, and other lovely and handmade gifts, the kitchen could easily have been a dud. But it's not. It's a smashing success. I asked Oliver what he was cooking and he said, "Supper!" Then I told him supper was ready, and asked him if he wanted to eat. "No," he replied. Cooking, you see, is much more entertaining than eating.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bags again

Seems like with my sewing I always come back to the same thing: bags. I was dropping some off at the co-op the other day and the cashier said to me, "Oh yeah, you're the bag lady." Not exactly the stature I was shooting for in life, but I'll take it. It's kind of accurate.

[OK side note. When I was working for a consulting firm in Cleveland, we did smoke testing in the neighborhoods adjacent to the city. We had an issue in Viola's house in Mayfield Heights so we had to go in and check it out. At this point, Viola (a sweet, crackly old woman with a house that smells of cabbage) says to me, "So you want to be a sewer lady??" and I decide on a change in career...]

Back to bags. I make bags. All kinds of bags: lunch bags, snack bags, tote bags, grocery bags, shoulder bags... and now, produce bags! I've been wanting to make these for some time. My first attempt used an unbleached cheesecloth, and, while airy, was totally unruly to sew. They looked like crap and weren't much easier to use. The cashier at Valle's gave me a couple raised eyebrows when I produced my produce in said bags for scanning. Huh, he said. Well, I guess I would have too. So I made these:

I used organic cotton leno from Near Sea Naturals and a little swatch of some cotton fruit fabric to embellish. The leno is stiff enough to sew well, but super gauzy and hole-y so I can get some nice air flow. I'm happy with how they turned out and am going to try to make some more. I may even put some up on Etsy.

I also did a couple more snack bags, which we have been using heaps lately. They are extraordinarily fast to make so they're one of the few projects I can start and finish after Oliver's gone to bed. It's good to have a couple of those up my sleeve, or in the bag, as the case may be.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Holiday knitting

Well, I seem to have caught a knitting bug this season because I took off running. More details on Ravelry, for those of you who are members. Lots of mittens, 2 hats, a mini scarf, and yes, even some progress on my BIG project: Darling's sweater (no longer a surprise - gift given, incomplete as it was, on Christmas). I even got yarn and a sweater class for gifts (a sweater for ME, indulgent indeed).

All fueled by copious amounts of tea, Peppercorn Shortbread (ohhh, there it is, the secret link), and a little dollup of hot buttered rum (courtesy of Karleen). Quite cozy, I do say.

Friday, January 1, 2010

White Garden

Darling conjured up some scallops, crusty bread, and salad. Then we settled in for another go at the old floor plan...

Breakfast ala backpack

Hoping everyone had a fantastic New Year celebration! Ours involved a bit of skiing over at Green Garden, which is happily not very green at all right now, combined with some cozy meals and a little home design. It was pretty perfect.

How did you spend it?