Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Out and About

A local fountain surrounded by mums.

Butter Caramels to die for (thanks to "A", who made a whole pan of it, but this is all I had to work with just a few minutes later). Recipe from Candy Making Basics.

The birdhouse squash are finally starting to grow.

Art with the art supply leftovers (or, fun with crayon shavings).

A dead tree with lively autumn vines.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Introducing the newest member of our family...Pepper! This sweet little kitty came home with us a week ago and filled our house with doting oohhs and aahhs. He divides his time evenly between sleeping, snuggling, and completely spazing out. Yes, it has been quite entertaining, watching him attack anything that catches his eye—especially his tail. It was clear: kitty needed some of his very own toys.

I knit this little fishie for him and it quickly became his favorite. The simple pattern, from Teach Me To Knit, came together in no time at all.

Instructions called for tying the fish to a thread and dangling it from a stick but, as you can see, Pepper prefers it no strings attached. More fish are in the works, as this one is already thoroughly abused.

He's so fun, but no matter how wild he gets (clawing up the back of the chair, stalking unsuspecting toes), it's never long before he's fast asleep again.

Welcome home, Pepper!

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Lines, Different Directions

As I mentioned, things have started to take shape again the the metals shop. The unplanned hiatus turned out to be a great break, and I returned to the jeweler's bench with renewed inspiration, motivation, and lots of new ideas. These ideas, while clearly formed, have resulted in a mish-mash of the many different paths my imagination takes me on. And it's interesting, the directions the designs are headed in. From rustic to contemporary, I am wondering if I am going to be able to pull this off—blending very different styles while still keeping a coherent body of work. I'll take you on a tour of my latest work and see if I can't demonstrate how they connect in a way that makes sense.

First, there's a new "Raw" line of simple shapes with a rustic feel to them, like the Raw Oval Earrings (below). Thoroughly beaten up, each piece will be new take on a classic—an oval dangle, a round pendant, or a teardrop earring, for example. The "Raw" pieces will be perfect for everyday wear, but will also bring a natural feel to a more formal occasion.

In relation to the "Raw" line, the new "Pastoral" series will reflect a natural sentiment, but by depicting simple scenes of the outside world, rather than through texture. While the organic effect of the oxidized interior lends to their provincial quality, these scenes are given a more urban feel by being cut from a highly-polished dome. The Tree Scene Necklace , shown below, is the first in this series.

Lastly, a new line of mirrored pieces in the works called SpyWear, which is an expansion on the original mirrored line. These pieces feature a simple shape (my design, or choose your own) cut from a small dome, then set in a bezel that holds a mirror inside. With dramatic contrast, the shape and darkened dome are set apart from the shine of the mirror's reflection.

The SpyWear line has a notably contemporary edge to it, in contrast to the other lines, but simplicity and a featured form is what makes all the new pieces relate to each other.
I will be expanding all three lines over the next few weeks. Check back here, or at my Etsy shop to see what comes of these three design endeavors.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Rhythms

In the swing of things again, and it is bittersweet. Those wide-open days of summer vacation seem so long ago already. New rhythms keep the beat while we get ready for school, do homework, go to soccer, bake lots of bread for sandwiches, and have productive sessions in the workshop.

This year, in an effort to cut down on the waste in the girls' lunchboxes, I made a bunch of snack sacks. They were so simple and quick—I made 9 of them in one sitting. I didn't have a pattern, so I decided to wing it and take my cues from a basic envelope. Once they were constructed, I added a few pieces of Velcro to keep the contents from spilling out.

They have been so great, and the girls have gotten lots of comments about them from teachers and classmates. (Maybe this will help spread the no-trash lunch idea?) Plans are in the works for sandwich wrappers next, as these are a bit small for a pb&j.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's That Time Again

There's been lots of action in our kitchen lately, now that the cooler weather is settling in. Canning, simmering, baking, braising, stewing, and fermenting are again part of the routine.

It'll be 8 weeks until we can taste these dill pickles, and we are waiting as patiently as we can. We tried a new recipe this year and we're holding out hope for crunchy spears this time.

This savory stew was flavored with a very special bay leaf.

And these are the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to ever come out of our oven.
(I love when new recipes are a success!)

Thursday, September 17, 2009


This back to school season was different from the ones before, because it featured very few new items for the big day. No shopping excursions were necessary because, well, we have so much already. Our closets and dressers are stuffed full and need no supplements. The girls did design and help sew a new skirt each (look for those soon!) and other than that, the only thing they lacked were backpacks.

This was going to be a challenge for us, as we have made a commitment to start buying more responsibly. It didn't feel right to run out to some big store to buy the latest and greatest cheap import. I considered homemade but, given my sewing skills, I imagined the girls lunches falling right through the bottom on their way to school. With making backpacks myself ruled out, I was off on an adventure to source handmade, quality ones.

After a lengthy Internet search (a time span, "A" reminded me, that was about equal to the time I would have spent on a trip to the store), I found the perfect backpacks.
Handmade by DCR Creations, these backpacks were custom made for the girls in prints/designs they got to choose themselves. When they arrived in the mail, we pulled them out and immediately started exploring them. We marveled at the quality handwork, we were thrilled with the cute theme-matching fabrics used for the linings of all the compartments, we found the water-bottle pocket, and then the girls noticed something else: the smell! They were lightly scented with just a hint of fruity aroma. This was their favorite feature of all and if they had the chance, I'm am sure they would ask you to smell those new backpacks, too.

We considered it a small victory to have sourced some great backpacks that served as an alternative to the inferior mass-produced ones. This gives us hope that we will be able find quality, affordable handmade products whenever the need arises.

DCR Creations is a mother-and-daughter run business that sews backpacks, wallets, aprons, totes, lunch bags, and so much more. Most products they offer can be custom-made in any fabric you see on their website.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Good Neighbors

It's been a while, I know. We are back online, after a complete computer meltdown, all thanks to my sister who loaned us her old CPU. Whew! It's a crazy feeling, being shut off from the world like that (chuckle chuckle). But I have to give a shout out to my kind neighbors who, as soon as I mentioned our computer died, called and emailed to say that not only did they have an extra computer we could use, but also let me know I could go on over and use theirs whenever I need to. Seriously, neighbors don't get much better than that.

Speaking of good neighbors, I had the pleasure of being assigned the booth next to Little Garlic Press at last Sunday's Design Hive Market in Cambridge, MA.

Little Garlic Press is a Portland, ME based operation featuring clothing made from re-purposed vintage fabrics, cotton t-shirts bearing antique botanical illustrations, and beautiful paper products. The creative force behind the shop is Nikaline who, aside from her 4 (four!) other jobs, finds time to design gorgeous scarves, skirts, dresses and shirts from vintage clothing and fabric she cleverly sources.

She has gotten her hands on so much vintage fabric over the years that she sells that, too. I couldn't resist this piece of mushroom print polyester fabric she was selling, so I scooped it up before anyone else could buy it. I can only imagine what was originally done with this fabric in the 70's ( think: women's pantsuits and men's shirts a la Travolta). What will I do with it? I have no idea. I just know needed it. Polyester mushroom print fabric doesn't come along every day, folks.

You can find Little Garlic Press at Material Objects in Portland, at Design Hive during the holidays, or at her Etsy shop (her shop is currently empty, but check back soon as she'll be adding new items).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Surroundings: Part 3

When we moved into our home, the kitchen was a bit out of date. And by out of date, I mean 1940s, complete with a huge contraption that we believe was the first dishwasher ever. Fast forward a few years to the kitchen renovation—a budget remodel, done completely by "A".

The new walls, windows, floors, cabinets, and counter tops were a dream come true, but it is the back splash that remains the conversation piece of the room. We covered the walls between the counter tops and cabinets with pebble tile, giving the kitchen a natural feel. The best part? The wave.

Crafted in homage to our time spent surfing in Southern California, our wave is a reminder of the place where we started our family. And with time flying as fast as it is (case in point: our baby started to kindergarten today), we are doing all we can to keep our special memories at the surface. This pebbly ocean swell may seem like merely a decorative touch to some, but to us it is so much more.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three Days

This long weekend brought some of the best things in life...

like climbing trees (can you find the 2 little trolls in this photo?)

Special treats, like chocolate-slathered frozen bananas

Enjoying the backyard scenery (read about this carpet of flowers here)

a little bit of work

and a spur-of-the-moment zip line (why not?)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Surroundings part 2

"Check in the second drawer of the red dresser!"
This is something you hear in our household many times a day. No matter what you're looking for, be it nail clippers, a hair elastic, or a headlamp, you're likely to find it in the second drawer, our junk drawer, of that dresser.

It was rescued from my parents' old cottage, destined to become a TV stand and storage piece for us. When we brought it home, it was a pinkish-brown, as was most of the furniture in that cottage. (I'll have to ask my parents why one of these days). I painted it bright yellow, then a watery crimson so the yellow radiates through the red. It brings color and character to our living room.

But I'm not here to talk about our junk drawer, or the makeover the dresser got. The thing that makes this piece of furniture a prized object in our home is it's secret (apparently, we are partial to furniture with hidden surprises. Remember the table?). Our resident woodworker fashioned a special place for a modern amenity in this antique piece. A flip-down drawer front reveals our DVD/VCR player hidden inside the top drawer. We just flip it back up to hide it all—keeping the big silver box out of sight.

I have never been particularly fond of decorating my home with various technological components, so this was a great solution. I did have some reservations about modifying such a nice, old piece of furniture but in the end, functionality won out—and I'm glad it did!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There were plenty of folks at the party this past weekend who had never been to our home. This brought on lots of kind comments about our surroundings—most of which had to do with the great architectural details of our older house (built in 1920) or the landscaping. It got me thinking about where we live, and how we forget to appreciate our little nest sometimes.

There's the furnace that has been known to shut off only on the coldest day, the paint that's peeling from the foundation, and a front lawn that is mostly crabgrass. It's easy to get hung up on what the neighbors might see as not up to par, but it is what I look past almost daily that makes this house special. A pretty window that looks out to the backyard, the kitchen back splash we put in a few years ago, and the sturdy front door that we opened with a skeleton key the first time we entered the house

Today, with renewed enthusiasm about my home, I have decided to run a series featuring the special things that surround me and my family. These things might inspire, spark an idea for you and your own home, or could be a clever solution you may want to try for yourself.

So here goes! The first "Surroundings" feature:

This trellis was built by "A" only three years ago. The vines have completely covered it, creating a green "room" that houses our hammock. And it just so happens to be this very week that the vine explodes with tiny white flowers that drip off the top of it. We call this place our "secret garden," our little hideaway right in our own backyard.

What about you? What is your favorite thing about where you live? Is it artwork, an architectural feature, an outdoor element, a prized piece of furniture? Do tell.