Friday, February 29, 2008

Garden Greens

"Mary stood by the fire and twisted her thin little hands together with sheer pleasure. 'If I have a spade,' she whispered, 'I can make the earth nice and soft and dig up weeds. If I have seeds and can make the flowers grow the garden won't be dead at all--it will come alive." - The Secret Garden

My garden isn't amazing but it is green and green is ever so tantalizing to dream about on a day like today. It's been a long week, we're all tired, Sarah's home sick. Looking at a few pictures from last summer is good for the soul. How many weeks?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jody's First Bag

A mother of a friend of mine asked me to make her two bags based on her specifications. The first bag was to be navy linen. Airy and casual for summer but elegant enough for her profession. Subtle but snazzy. Simple but functional. It was a challenge (and I don't "think" in navy). but I really like the result. It's more substantial than it looks - the soft interlining adds some body without stiffness. It feels good (which I think is the test of any bag). The flowery strip comes from a Japanese fat quarter I've cherished for a long while - it has a bit of gold on it which is classy. The navy-stitched flower linen (on the lining) felt like a find. She'll be able to wear it over her shoulder or in her hand. On to bag #2...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Orange Crush

Right now I am trying desperately to work as a Highly Professional Web Designer and Get Things Done and NOT peek inside the new Gudrun Sjoden catalog which arrived today. It is gorgeous - cobalt, chartreuse, citrus - colors as bright as pigment. If you're not familiar with the catalog, they're Swedish and offer both clothing and home furnishings. Be inspired!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Black and White Cake

Does anyone have some almond extract I could borrow? Right now? Just pass it on, through your computer screen. I didn't realize I didn't have any until I had to add it - as the very last ingredient. Grrr. Anyone else do this? All the way through the making I waxed poetic on the virtues of this recipe (yes, I talk to the dog). You feel like a creamy-buttermilky-chocolatey cake? You can make this (and be eating it!) in less time than it takes to jet to the store. It's lower fat, too - the almond extract makes it rich without all the heaviness. Sigh. I did think creatively (desperate soul that I was) and have added some instant coffee granules to the chocolate batter to make the flavor more complex. I'm sure my family won't mind, either (after all, it does have sugar in it). 

Below is the true recipe. Just don't forget the almond extract.

Black and White Cake, adapted from Cooking Light
cooking spray
2 t. flour
6 tbs. butter
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
3/4 c. buttermilk (lowfat)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. soda
1 1/2 c. flour
3 tbs. unsweetened cocoa
1/4 t. almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray, and dust with 2 t. flour.
3. Place the butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high until butter melts. Add sugar, stirring with a whisk. Add vanilla and egg whites, stir well. Stir in the buttermilk, salt and baking soda. Spoon 1 1/2 c. flour into measuring cups and level. Add flour to mix, stirring just until blended (do not overstir). Spread half of batter into prepared pan. Add cocoa and almond extract to remaining batter, stir well with a whisk. Slowly pour the chocolate batter over the batter in pan.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done (test with wooden pick). Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Yield: 9 servings

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Indulge Me

Indulge me in a better picture of the new bag. Erik, who now calls my bagmaking "your crack habit," took this picture earlier today. Whatever. Doesn't the button make the bag?
Cami found that for me yesterday. I get to design her shop website - what a treat!

Today I realized I hadn't introduced our 5th (and hairiest) member of the family. This is Sam. Sam and I have been Soul Mates since 1998. We share a love of running. He also enjoys peanut butter and squirrel watching. Erik traumatizes the children by asking, "Ask your mother, do you love Sam more than you love us?" This is unfair and sure to cause years of therapy. This morning Sam and I indulged in a a snowy walk together.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Still Standing

All better now, thankfully. Oddly there were a few minutes of "good" being sick. One: Sarah creating her own computer. She'd asked to use my mac but, selfish me, I wasn't about to chance day-old chili on the keypad. She marched off, returning with Exhibit A above. Note the paper clips securing the "web pages." The page displayed? A website for creating your own handbag. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Maybe I have a business partner right under my nose. Literally.
Incidentally, that's Sarah's bag under her computer. She chose the fabric from Cami's and sewed most of it herself. She adores that bag and saves it for her favorite doll's clothes. A few of my own favorite early-childhood fabric memories:
  • learning how to sew with burlap and a large needle
  • creating Barbie doll clothes out of fabric scraps, while sitting at my mom's feet while she sewed on her machine
  • crawling on the floor at Cy Rudnick's under fabric bolts, feeling the swishy material
  • jamming my mom's Elna and trying to fix it without her knowing (no, I wasn't allowed to use it)
  • buying a single button I loved with my own money
  • perusing Folkwear patterns and wishing I could dress in period costume all the time

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ice Cream

Eating only ice cream for two days sounds heavenly, doesn't it? Not when it feels like a 747 is about ready to lift off in your belly. For the last 4 days my family and I have had what is benignly known as the "stomach flu." Without any graphic descriptions, let me tell you, it has been Biblical. Definitely NOT the way to prepare for swimsuit season. I was so sick I didn't even want to surf fabric porn. Since I don't have any inspiration myself, please go quickly to see Keri Smith's "100 Ideas" list. I myself look forward to some of these gems when I can again stand up.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It's mine, all mine...

For months I've had an idea for a bag but no time to do it. This is it. I made this yesterday (between feeding the kids lunch, doing laundry and then, cleaning up kid "stomach flu" but that is another story). I've been really inspired by the artful piecing and stitching of Danny Mansmith. It was not my first time with this technique but my first time with a bag. I want to keep playing, experimenting with my own patterns and surface design. I will post more photos soon. 

P.S. I think I will keep this one. After 40+ bags I haven't made one for myself!

Friday, February 15, 2008


"There is no telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun." - Thomas Merton

I thought of this quote tonight when watching Snowcake. Have you seen it? I found the film heavy but masterfully done. Like Magnolia, it is one of those movies about human frailty that is so rich your heart aches until the redemptive end. It was dazzlious.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

10 Reasons Why I Love My Husband

1. He made cookies this week.
So what that it was the second time in our 12-year marriage. They were very good cookies!

2. He bought me a shirt today instead of roses.
Maybe I'm practical. Maybe it's my runner-soul. Maybe I'm really not crazy about roses. A Smartwool shirt I wanted and a Smartwool shirt I got.

3. He cleans up after dinner.
It's kind of a sneaky thing. He does it and won't talk about it (like he's really not doing it). Whatever. The kitchen always looks better than when I do it.

4. He encourages me to take risks.
From small things to consistent winter runs to big things like starting 2 businesses, Erik has helped me embrace and enjoy challenges. And change. "Life is short, do what you love," he says.

5. He's level-headed.

I'm not sure if that's the right term but nothing rattles him. Not me. Not bills. Not covert government operatives. Which is why he's good at doing whatever he does.

6. He's a life-long learner.
Right now he's reading everything he can about Venezuela, China and Mexico. And trying to be fluent in another language. And embracing long hikes, biking and traveling. And Spanish movies. And...

It's sexy to know I'll never figure out the depth of this man. As long as the 4 stacks of books by the bed don't topple over and kill us both.

7. He's really funny.
When we first dated I couldn't stop laughing. Even when he was talking about serious things, like wanting to marry me. He can still help me see the lighter side of life.

8. He leaves me alone.
We like some things that are the same. We also have separate interests. He makes me think of that Rainer Maria Rilke line about love being two trees sheltering one another.

9. He likes being at home with us.
I let him think he drives me crazy when he's home with us but - shhh - I really enjoy it when he's here. He reads for long hours. He pesters the kids. He "checks" the weather by opening the back door and making the kitchen all cold (actually, that drives me nuts!).

10. He's stayed around through thick and thin.
We've lived in 2 apartments, 2 houses and 3 states. We've had 2 kids, one dog. We've lost close friends and family. He's had 3 job changes. I've had 5. We've endured so far, living each minute together in high and low. Good cooking and bad.

That's all. Thanks, Dear.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Today I was inspired by the work of Rob Ryan. "Can we? Shall we? Call in sick one day and travel to the sea and hold hands all day?" Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Color, Color and More Color

Here's some color to inspire all of us. This is my daughter, Sarah, wrapped in the quilt I made her last spring with Kaffe Fassett fabrics. I love this photo of Sarah - it is one of my favorites. And, if you don't want to quilt after seeing these colors, well, I just don't know...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another Day, Another Bag

Today's bag was for Kate, who has so kindly already purchased three of my bags. This size holds about everything without feeling like it does. I love this mustard Amy Butler print and am eyeing it for a valance over the kitchen sink.

Sewing the bag today was a treat. Another one - staying in bed this morning to read. I've been sick for days and so deserved a real rest (which mothers of small children NEVER get). The book of choice was V.S. Naipaul's
A Bend in the River. I was world's away...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Seeking Beauty

For me, a stack of fabric brings delight. To M, my 2-year-old son, it is lining up cars. He has 3 favorite places in the house. Here he is in his room. I took this 5 minutes ago. He should be napping and I should be working. Alas.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New Bag Style

The high point today was finishing a bag for my friend Amy. I created this pattern, working with drawings and piecing cut paper together. It was great fun although I bit my nails a few times, wondering if everything would line up as planned. There's a large pocket and divider inside for goodies. Corners are boxed but it's pretty flat and easy against the body. I really like this rounded shape and want to make more so inquire if you're interested. This bag was created with Amy Butler fabrics.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Gray Day

I wish I could say this was a black and white photo - it's not. It's just a wet gray day here. It's warm though so I can't complain. According to my sister (who once  strolled around, counting them) we have 27 trees in the backyard. Here's to a warm day in February, sisters, and the importance of counting trees.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Office

I've been snarky and grumbly and today was better. An hour walk did the trick. Krieger's bean dip at supper was another FABULOUS treat although I've had to near-sequester myself in my office this evening. Here's a list of inspirational things in here with me:
  • Bernina sewing machine (duh)
  • S's art on wall
  • Helen Frankenthaler print
  • my quilt on wall out of Kaffe Fassett fabrics
  • Debra Wald teacup and saucer and other handmade bowls
  • baskets of fabric stash
  • worn Selvedge magazine, Dec. issue (when will my subscription kick in?)
  • what do you call those long clear plastic tubes full of slow-moving stars and confetti in water?
  • window (although it's now dark)
  • folders in my file drawer of things I've kept forever - cuttings from my paintings, pages torn from art magazines, exhibition fliers, pictures of places I'd like to visit, artsy cards, words I liked in poems..
  • Cross pen given to me by my best friend in high school
  • letter opener sculpted by my father (in walnut)
  • Nature Company pencil containing a miniature rock collection
  • red tool box full of art supplies
  • clear plastic box full of art supplies
  • two Pantone binders full of color chips 
  • Holbein sable paintbrush
  • long fish button made from bone
  • "Carpe Annum" award made of a fish cast in clay