Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Sam (our golden retriever) and I did our daily walk of the backyard. I caught him sniffing the tulips, inhaling (I am not making this up). Why not?!

Right now it’s like a family reunion in the backyard. I can almost hear the conversations. “How was your winter, Daisy?” “Isn’t it great to see everyone, Columbine?” Stretching and unfurling, the yard is busy.

Each year I have plans (on nearly the very same day) for a garden diary. I started one olive-colored spiral notebook years ago. It is bittersweet to see plants listed from my old house: azure monkshead, gayfeather, red dragon, foamflower, eupatorium, giant hosta. It makes me sad to see my spring plans written in fall of 2001, not knowing I’d be moving the following year.

I could plant my old friends here but it wouldn't be the same. We have new friends. Many of them. More reunion talk, “Who invited Charlie? He’s a real creep...”

The diary (preferably with a sketch or two) would help me know everyone’s name. I am known to buy plants on impulse and should do a better job learning about each one. Here’s a roster of the folks I can see in the backyard today (and who I know by name). Please forgive any misspellings. Some Master Gardener knowledge (or my sister-in-law the horticulturist) would certainly come in handy. I hope the ones I’ve omitted don’t die on me, miffed. We enjoy them all.
  • Red maple
  • Liliatrope (do I have this right?)
  • Hearty geraniums
  • Mayflowers
  • Mouse ears
  • Monarda
  • Clematis
  • Clementine
  • Chives
  • Poison ivy (oh cripes)
  • Japanese anemone
  • Various grasses, including bloodgrass
  • Various sedum
  • Black-eyed Susans (come out now, I can barely see you!)
  • Purple coneflowers
  • False indigo
  • Russian sage
  • Roses (who knows what kind)
  • Siberian irises
  • Aguga
  • Creeping Jenny
  • Bleeding hearts
  • Various lilies (including tiger lilies)
  • Sedge
  • Grape hyacinths
  • Various hostas
  • Ferns (including Japanese)
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Crocus
  • Daffodils
  • Ground covers (can't remember names)
  • Axminster gold
  • Alliums
  • Purple salvia
  • Pachysandra (a gift unbeknownst from my neighbors, since it traveled under the fence)
  • Coreopsis
  • Heuchera
  • Astilbe
  • Heliopsis (a favorite)
  • Astilbe
  • Lavender
  • Sweet hyssop (smells like licorice, it’s an annual but still returns)
The backyard has a different personality from the front. They’re like distant family, respectful enough to send Christmas cards but not get together on the 4th (forgive me, I’m carrying this metaphor a little far).

This year we hope to have help redoing part of the back. I’m thinking a dry creek bed, a natural stone path, and a bench under the trees. We’ll see. It would be great but I can see Matt driving his trucks through it (and all the work…).

Speaking of my old house, yesterday was Del’s birthday. Del was an older woman who lived across the street from us. She lived to garden. I couldn’t escape her––she constantly brought me babies from her garden. “You’ll want to plant this right now,” thrusting something green and stickery at me , not caring that I freelanced from my house, and that meant that I was working, not gardening during the day. I quickly fell under her spell. Like one of her plants, I had no choice but to get rooted and grow as a gardener. She died two weeks before we moved but her spirit lives in her cannas I replant each year.

Welcome back, dear friends.

Sentimental Journey

The older I get, the more sentimental I am about childhood books and toys. Especially books, I wish I could zip open my kids and pour in all the wonderful stories I still love. Many of my favorites were Golden Books and we read them frequently––The Friendly Book, The Egg Book, My Home, Scuffy the Tugboat

This week I read Golden Legacy, a history of the Golden Books by Leonard S. Marcus. It is a lush book, covering many aspects of the design, business and personalities of the series. The story of the books reflects the American childhood over the last 65 years.

I liked reading about the writers and illustrators––Eloise Wilkins, Ruth Krauss, Richard Scarry, J.P. Miller, Mary Blair, Feodor Rojankovsky, Garth Williams, Masha, Tenggren, and others. Now an adult, and also an artist, I appreciate their designs in a new way. There is so much energy in the few pages of each book.

It was interesting to read about artist ties to guilds and design movements like fauvism, cubism as well as political movements. Many illustrators were immigrants, new to America. The books evolved to reflect a diverse country. I felt a kinship with the female illustrators, pictured and quoted, sharing their need to balance work with family.

The goal of the stories has always been to please children and be accessible to parents (the books were once 25¢ apiece). The simplicity of the stories is what I find most appealing––many stories are uncomplicated and pure. We will keep reading them.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Making Choices

I am encouraged to read about people making changes in their daily habits to benefit the earth. In my house we are trying to do more, too. For a year or so I have been using canvas bags to shop (and not just for groceries). I am limiting driving (reducing and planning errands, and having “no drive” days). My goal is to reduce my driving and gas consumption by a half. One joy of driving less has been bicycling Matt to preschool. We are the only ones who do this (although, surprisingly, we don't live the closest). It takes no time at all and is great fun for both of us (especially on warm sunny days!). We’ve been recyclers since we lived in Chicagoland but I want to do more to reduce initial consumption and was happy to find CatalogChoice.org. The service is free and allows individuals the opportunity to control mailings. The web interface is well-designed (of course I would notice, right?) and it's simple to sign up and get started. The service is sponsored by the Ecology Center and endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation and others. While I might initially miss a handful of catalogs, I am hoping more retailers will take notice and offer online versions of their catalogs as well as reduce mailings.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Website

Cami and I are nearing completion of her new website, promoting her fabulous yarn and fabric store. Please go see the site––it'd be helpful to hear all comments. We have more to add but it's a start. Recently I've worked more with small businesses (some closer to where I live) and it's a real pleasure to help contribute to their success. It makes me feel part of the community. Besides, with my sewing “habit,” I MUST keep Cami in business!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Good Read

I have not been able to put down The Ten Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer. The book has received a lot of press lately as it chronicles four women who have "opted out," and are analyzing their lives and life choices.

It is about love and marriage and children and choices and time. It is about the geography of the city and of suburbs and of our own homes and souls. I found it wickedly funny and smart.

The book was a surprise to me. I confess to being a little snobby about books (I studied T.S. Eliot at Oxford U as part of my lit degree) but found the book covered contemporary women's issues with both intelligence and emotional insight. It was thought provoking and emotionally compelling. Wolitzer has been compared to Jonathan Franzen (and others who can wade the rich waters of the domestic day) and she should be. The book is more than run-of-the-mill mother-lit. Its truths are universal. I couldn't help but read it on many, many levels.

If you're interested in knowing more about Wolitzer and the book, the NPR interview is a good listen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Hole Is to Dig

Feel. Dig. Scoop. Pour. Squint down holes. Gather pebbles, worms, flower buds, anything. Buzz like bees. Run run run. Lie in grass. Walk on ledge. Walk on ledge again. It makes me happy––the boy loves being outside as much as the girl. They slip out, rooms messy, homework unfinished, piano untouched. I drag them in for dinner, dusty, dirty, rosy, and smiling.

[If you haven't read A Hole Is to Dig, then you're in for a treat. Krauss and Sendak's classic book, published in 1952, is for light hearts of all ages.]

Monday, April 21, 2008

Apple Girl

I found this darling dress for Sarah on etsy. She's crazy about the fabric (I didn't tell her I've been in love with it for months, too). Yes, she has dresses. But lately she's been getting taller…and older. She's all legs and arms and lip gloss and “my friend said this, and my friend did that.” No matter what people told me, I thought my children would be small forever. How can she be nearly 8 when inside I feel like 10? It doesn't make sense. She's growing up and I'm running behind her waving a beautiful red apple dress. I will cherish each moment she wears it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End?

Don't call this world adorable, or useful, that's not it.
It's frisky, and a theater for more than fair winds.
The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.
The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.
But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white
feet of the trees
whose mouths open.
Doesn't the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?
Haven't the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,
until at last, now, they shine
in your own yard?
Don't call this world an explanation, or even an education.
When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking
outward, to the mountains so solidly there
in a white-capped ring, or was he looking
to the center of everything: the seed, the egg, the idea
that was also there,
beautiful as a thumb
curved and touching the finger, tenderly,
little love-ring,
as he whirled,
oh jug of breath,
in the garden of dust?

Mary Oliver

Friday, April 18, 2008

Small Bites

I am reading my Selvedge, the magazine in one hand, my laptop in another; I read, I surf. Here are some gems:

Tamar Mogendorff's work (above) keeps popping up everywhere I go. How can I do something similar over my fireplace? I'm into “multiples” these days.

I was struck by the energy and similarity of these two images (below). Go see Carole Waller's fabric painting and Sarah Brown's work in paper.

Look at these dolls! GORGEOUS.

Saltwater reminds me of Anthropologie. I'm itching to cut and sew some clothes but I need to finish my current pile (sigh). I have way more inspiration and creativity than time. [In my closet are boxes of fabric I wove years ago - if anyone has experience sewing with handwovens, let me know.]

Look at these ceramics. Read Diana Fayt's fun bio when you see her work. She sells on etsy, too.

The curious objects on Whippetgrey are ingenius (reminding me of Edward Gorey). [Wonder how I could do something like this with Sarah?]

All full! More to come.

Morning Run

I live in a subdivision bordered by farmland. One reason I chose our house was because of the fields. My head is fueled by the stimulation of the city but my heart breathes in the country. When we moved here I ran the long flat roads, mindful of when the corn went in and when it got high. Now there are more subdivisions with more on the way. The view is changing and it's unsettling. There are more cars and they don't slow down. There is trash in the ditch. But when I run I look for the red-wing blackbirds. My sneakers make chunking noises over broken stalks. It is warm and I can smell mud and hot grass and spring.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mad Hatter

Miss Kish, who as you know got a hat YESTERDAY, now wants THIS one. It won't happen as this is a special order. It's more time-consuming to patch and quilt a hat (than simply use two fabrics) but it's also more fun. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sarah Gets a Hat

This is NOT the hat I posted Monday. Yes, they are the same fabrics. That one was for etsy. Sarah gets this one. Monday's was going to be for her but I messed up, over-reducing the pattern. This one is a bit floppy but she loves it; she chose the fabric. More hats are in the works for the store and special orders.

P.S. Homework is a breeze - when you're outside wearing a new hat.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Creative Energy

"Life begats life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich." - Sarah Bernhardt

Here's what we had percolating today: 
  • pink Amy Butler-fabric baby girl hat (now on my etsy site); nearly done with a matching adult-sized one
  • new "patchy" hat in the works (Anna Maria Horner Chocolate Lollipops fabric)
  • "turtle in nature" mobile made by Sarah who also sketched in her pad on our walk

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Quilts of Valor

This weekend I participated in the "Quilts of Valor" project. The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is: "to cover all war wounded and injured servicemembers and veterans from the War on Terror whether physical and/or psychological wounds with Wartime Quilts called Quilts of Valor." My link was the Indiana State Museum, which provides one-square fabric kits. My finished square will now go to a local quilting organization to be incorporated, with other squares, into quilts. The Foundation will then distribute them. The pattern was very easy (with excellent directions) and the project would be a good one for novice or experienced quilters of all ages. No sewing machine required.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


OH MY––My first issue of Selvedge arrived today. I nearly peed my pants. It is GORGEOUS. Beaucoup inspiration. I would be ruined for the day if I weren't already making hats. The cover caught my eye - it is the work of Rob Ryan, who inspired me in February. I promise to share nuggets as I eat my way through.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Last year, on this day, a wonderful thing happened––I got a sewing machine. You see, I'd wanted one for years (being a weaver and cradle fiber-holic) but my frugal, always-working corporate (cringe) self always won out. "You––have time to sew?" "How does SEWING fit into your resume?" "Show me the money, Girl Who Sucked in Home Ec." Then, Something Happened, although I'm not sure what. I was maniacally quilting (by hand). I was exhibiting squirrel-like hoarding in regard to fabric. There was a tax refund...

I don't sleep with it anymore (just kidding) but it's been a very memorable year of color, creativity and community.

By the numbers:
  • 18 - Years since I'd sewn with a sewing machine
  • 0 - Days I'd had the machine before I started wanting to sell things
  • 4 - Aprons
  • 2 - Hats
  • 3 - Quilts
  • 6 - Placemats
  • 3 - Sewing classes
  • 1 - Fabric store of choice
  • 13 - Gifts made for friends and family
  • 2 - Projects done with daughter
  • 1 - Seam ripper, used numerous times
  • 1 - Iron and board, wondering why I'd never used them before
  • 1 - Handbag for me
  • 1 - Blog where I yack on about what husband calls my "crack habit"
  • 37 - Handbags for kind folks
  • 1 - Charitable contribution
  • 21 - Items sold
  • 1 - Contest entered (not won)
  • 1 - Zipper inserted
  • 1 - Pair of pajama pants
  • Countless - Projects in the works


Spaghetti sauce. Grape jelly. Sloppy Joes. My family will never truly appreciate these placemats. They were a learning experience, too. The best part: practicing a slip stitch that would make an Amish woman weep. The worst part: ripping out 22 rows of stitching, after I decided I didn't like it ribbed. I think of designer Steve Tolleson's quote: "The absolute most challenging thing is to do something simple. Because simple has to be perfect." And so it was with the placemats. I am thinking Christmas would be the right time to do more. (No, you cannot twist my arm, Mom.)

Garden Walk

Gardening has taught me to see potential in life. I'm filled with pride seeing my budding beauties. Like seeing through father eyes, my babies have already run the race, achieved the award and been handed the diploma. On a sunny spring day with moist earth, there is hope for all I grow.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Early Birds

This morning I got up without my alarm. It felt good to be back into the routine, after a week off. I started the dishwasher, did a load of laundry. Ate a grapefruit and granola. Checked email. Sarah was not happy to be roused, but she never is; Matt popped out of bed. The kids ate. Erik read the paper. At 8:20 I pushed Sarah out the door to catch the bus, eager to walk Sam and Matt. At 8:30 I noticed the bus hadn't come and, besides Sarah, there were no kids at the other stops. What was wrong? Did I get the break dates wrong? Erik pointed out it was not 8:30 - but 7:30! Last week we left the house each day at 7:30 and I'm guessing my body is still on that schedule. My neighbors are probably still wondering (or laughing!).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hat Day

Inside, sewing on a beautiful day like today? Yes, ma'am! I spent the morning doing spring clean up in the yard (much more to go, but it was a start). After lunch, I banished the kids and voila - a new hat for my mom. She chose the fabric during her visit with us last week. Sarah picked fabric, too, so that'll be next, I suppose (unless she keeps this one - see below). Having some sewing time felt indulgent - moments for myself have been few and far between during spring break. The exterior fabric is from Heather Bailey's Freshcut. The lining is from Amy Butler's brand new Midwest Modern.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Mama has a New Suit

Part of my "vacation in Indy" week has been a personal concession to buy myself a couple of things for spring. I am not a good shopper for two reasons - my Puritanical-guiltmongering upbringing ("you really don't need that, do you?") and unrealistic expectations (champagne tastes, beer budget).

But, lucky for me, on Tuesday I found (on sale!) shorts and capris. On Wednesday, I mindlessly perused  the Land's End catalog and realized I'd been procrastinating on a  swimsuit purchase. For like, five years. It was time - no matter how painful. 

The suit I'd been "making do" with wasn't terrible. But God help me, I will not be one of those middle-aged moms desperately trying to look 15. Gravity and children will change your life, no matter what you tell yourself. So I bit the bullet. A catalog purchase seemed safe. I could always return it once I dried my eyes from the laughter, right?

The package came today and {insert Hallelujah Chorus here} it fits! It is well made! No one will laugh! Best of all, with the suit came a bonus - cleavage. That's right, it was right there, in front of me all along. Who KNEW?! 

After this, I am giddy about the future. What could be next? A perfect husband and children? My son, potty trained? Winning the lottery?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


The kids and I are on spring break this week. Sarah has art camp across the city during the mornings so, instead of doubling the long drive, we are walking and seeing the city. This was part of my plan when I registered her - soaking up spring sun and perhaps a picnic. Ha! For the most part it has been chilly and gray. Still we have seen, felt, heard, touched and tasted much. Some random things:
  • a swollen river
  • quilts made by Amish women for each other
  • wild onions
  • Wild Oats
  • Anthropologie
  • hot pink fabric prints
  • hot mustard
  • red pepper bean dip
  • glass tiles
  • the heat from glassblowing ovens
  • green bridges
  • green grass
  • plant nurseries readying for spring
  • Orangina
  • smoking fire
  • loons, otters, foxes, birds, and a bear
  • parking garages
  • cash, checks
  • runners, walkers, a wheelchair
  • kayaks and Smartwool argyle socks
  • a birdhouse
  • Zoobs, gears and a concrete mixer
  • rain, warm air, cold air, sun, wind
  • kitchen towels
  • big homes, people without homes
  • goatsmilk hand cream
I have two more days before I return to the life of house, bills, work, and school.

*The above pics are from today - we strolled through the Indianapolis ARTSPARK.