Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Drop everything. Right now.

Um, WATCH THIS. Seriously. My brain has been doing cartwheels for the past 24 hours or so, ever since one of our co-op parents sent me the link. Just imagine the possibilities! Has anyone tried it? Will someone please, and tell me how it works for you? We're all going to be churning out the most adorable softies now, in no time at all! Amazing, and I just can't stopping about the possibilities. I mean, you can easily design something, change the seam to darts, elongate, widen, shrink, etc. Let me at it!


Monday, January 28, 2008

Hellooo out there

As Doctor S and I were on our way home today (after a meeting at FIT with the pattern grader for a last-minute checkup), I happened to glance in the window of a street-level apartment and saw, to my amazement, a young woman sitting in front of her sewing machine with her laptop nearby. My first thought? "Hey, a craft blogger!" And I was soo tempted to wave and smile and motion to her to open her window so I could introduce myself.

But then I remembered, this is New York! I would come across as a total scarey weirdo! So if you live in a street-level apartment on 18th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues and you're a crafter (and/or blogger): Hi!

Ok, here's a quick list of cool crafty things I've been mentally assembling. Gotta put it down so I don't forget them someday when I actually have time to make stuff, you know? (Yup, that'll be someday when I'm widowed and in my 80's, I'm afraid):

1. Make your own Moleskine-style book. Because with all the Moleskines I carry around (datebook, sketchbook, memo pockets for business receipts, etc.) this would be very cool to do, especially with recycled papers. Note to self: get a copy of that book! I want to make books with real spines.

2. Felt fortune cookies. Never mind Valentine's Day; these are cute anytime!

3. Aw, heck, as long as I'm showing you Martha's crafts, how about this great knitting basket made from an old (felted?) sweater?

4. And since I mentioned Valentine's Day as well, Molly's fabulous stitched cards (photo from the Purl Bee; I miss you all, Purlies!). I think I might finish the backs by gluing a piece of colored paper to cover the wrong side of the fabric. Or maybe by sewing the paper to the back around the perimeter of the card?

5. A circle applique quilt that looks like this print. Wouldn't that be gorgeous? Especially on a white ground. Hmm, maybe I could manage this as a doll quilt in the meantime...

Ok, back to work.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Comfort, anyone?

What is the real definition of comfort food? Is it the foods that you grew up eating, foods that are loaded with starches and are generally unhealthy for you but make you feel good, or is it any food that makes you happy? Whatever it is, these are my favorites right now:

Martha's chocolate black pepper cookies are incredible. The pepper makes the chocolate even more chocolatey, and the dutch chocolate isn't too sweet: just rich and delicious. I looked for sanding sugar in three different groceries and couldn't find it, so I guess it's going to require a trip to the kitchen shop because we'll be making these again for sure. I also love that you chill the dough in a log shape and then slice it to form the cookies; couldn't be easier!

Pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe is another one of our big favorites and has been for almost a year, I think. It's easy, fast and delicious, and I think we make it at least every other week.

I plan to make a chocolate souffle this week. We like making souffles for dinner around here; I get lots of help whisking the eggs and the vinaigrette for an accompanying salad. Souffle for dessert certainly sounds like comfort food to me, yes?

We make a lot of pizza, as well, and my sister gave us a delicious recipe for vodka sauce (with ham and spinach--yum!) that we make frequently. Those fit the comfort criteria, I think.

Mario Batali's Pumpkin Lune was delicious but loads of work with a hungry toddler underfoot. I'll make it again someday, but I don't think if falls under the comfort category if you're exhausted and surrounded by a mess of a kitchen when you're finished, does it?

Any other suggestions for things I should try?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Happiness, beauty, consumerism

If you can make it through the first 150-200 pages of this book, your presistence may finally start to pay off. Or at least a few ideas began to emerge in my mind. If I tried to sit down and write it all out I'd never finish this post. But here are a few of the concepts that struck me:

Talking about why our tastes change, and how our concepts of beauty swing between "the restrained and the exuberant; the rustic and the urban": "we are drawn to call something beautiful whenever we detect that it contains in a concentrated form those qualities in which we personally, or our societies more generally, are deficient. We respect a style wich can move us away from what we fear and towards what we crave: a style which carries the correct dosage of our missing virtues."

Then on page 260, just pages from the end of the book: "the Japanese sense of beauty has long sharply differed from it's Western counterpart: it has been dominated by a love of irregularity rather than symmetry, the impermanent rather than the eternal and the simple rather than the ornate. The reason owes nothing to climate or genetics...but is the result of the actions of writers, painters and theorists, who have actively shaped the sense of beauty of their nation." And later on that same page: "In medieval Japan, poets and Zen priests directed the Japanese towards aspects of the world to which Westerners have seldom publicly accorded more than negligible or casual attention: cherry blossoms, deformed pieces of pottery, raked gravel, moss, rain falling on leaves, autumn skies, roof tiles and unvarnished wood. A word emerged, wabi, of which no Western language, tellingly, has a direct equivalent, which identified beauty with unpretentious, simple, unfinished, transient things."

So all of this got me thinking about where I find beauty right now. Am I attracted to the simple, the unrefined, and the irregular merely because as a culture we're surrounded by an abundance of the opposite? Is it because I'm surrounded by the mass-produced, the over-processed, and by sheer quantities of inexpensive stuff? I suspect that's precisily the reason.

In any case, I find my self increasing drawn to the simple, as do many of us today. I want to pare everything down to the bare minimum. Maybe that's why so many of us are also knitting and sewing today: to simplify our lives and separate ourselves from the mass of stuff that is our society right now.

Anway, that's too big a topic for one day. But I can tell you that I love the sheer simplicy of these hand-made wooden tools from Live Wire Farm as well as the products of Muji. Which is all a bit ironic, since it's more stuff and more consumerism, isn't it? But wow, REALLY beautiful.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

first day

I'm feeling so fortunate. The school system in New York is crazy competitive and expensive, and I really didn't know what to do about Dr. S and preschool. There's a whole application and interview process for most schools, and it just doesn't feel right to throw a three- or four-year-old into the middle of that sort of competition, whether they're aware of the environment or not (just my personal feelings, certainly not a judgement of others' decisions or choices). So I've been dragging my feet on the whole thing.

But just by chance, I recently learned about a co-operative preschool that's been in existence for nearly 30 years and recently lost it's space (a few times, actually) but is re-starting just blocks from our apartment. Sign us up! So I've been busy helping to get things organized, sewing curtains, scavenging our basement for discarded bookshelves, and prepping Tsia for the big day.

And she loves it! It really helped that she's been there with me as we interviewed teachers, cleaned, and assembled the materials. Yesterday she was a bit shy at first, but since she's played with several of her classmates and done some activities with Miss Jenny already, she warmed up very quickly.

The other aspect of the co-op that I love is that I get to help out at least twice a month. I love being involved and can't wait for both of us to learn and develop as a result. And hey! It wasn't even that hard to leave her, much as I feared the whole tearful mother thing. What a relief!

Oh, and Bear seems to like it, too. He goes along every day, and if he approves we know it's ok.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Urban planning

Why do the biggest projects always happen on the days when I have my lowest energy?

Actually, this was a perfect distraction for Dr. S from the fact that she was cranky from staying up too late the night before. We pushed back the sofa, rolled up the living room rug (the only large enough area in the apartment) and built ourselves a cityscape, complete with a park, farm, tall buildings, train station, and of course a MoMA. Funny how small it looks in the photo; it actually take most of S's toys and our apartment!

But what I really wanted to tell you much I'm enjoying the external flash for our camera. Most photographers seem to advise against the use of a flash, but with our dark apartment, taking photos in the winter is nearly impossible. I love this flash because I can bounce the light off the ceiling or walls or I can attach it to the camera with a cable to achieve a variety of other lighting effects, similar to having a studio light. Let me know if you want specifics on it and I'm be happy to provide the details on brand, model, etc.

I'm still no professional photographer, but I think this gadget will actually help me to take photos every day (even on a rainy day like today) and will ultimately improve my photography as a result.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I'm all about lists these days, on everything from the literal back of an envelope to the inside of an empty box of tea (the recycling basket was empty): whatever I can put my hands on. So here's one of my lists, just to put a few blog housekeeping items aside:

1. If you've written my an email recently and haven't received a reply, I apologize! Never fear: I haven't forgotten you and will write as soon as I am able.

2. That chair. Here's an earlier post about it and some additional information: vintage 1970's Costco (no relation to the discount/volume/whatever-it-is store).

3. Your queries regarding attaching the doll quilts to the wall: I use tiny nails, working them through the corners of the quilt just inside the binding very gently before nailing them to the wall. But watch your fingers when pounding!

Are you picking up a theme here?

We start every day by laying out Tsia's clothing like this. It began as a way to convince her to wear underpants instead of a diaper, but it's developed into a ritual, usually including everything from underpants (or, more likely, a diaper) to shoes.

Then there's this favorite "game" we play often. I'm given the sad and angry bears; Dr. S gets the happy and laughing bears.

Here is (ostensibly) Tsia's Christmas gift from her cousins

And a recent gift from my Mom

Here's our gift to Tsia for her upcoming third birthday. Notice that those mice are dressed and the gift isn't wrapped yet. Um, yeah. I confess; I've been playing with it. I've also been obsessing over how to translate the Oliver + S patterns into diminutive versions for these mice. Because, oh, I don't know, I don't have enough deadlines and work on my plate right now?

And then there's that other doll we're dressing these days. I can hardly wait to put the spring collection to bed (we're just days away from our print deadlines now) so I can get busy working on my designs for the fall collection!

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I'm not really a sugar girl. I'll always exchange candy for chocolate, and even then I prefer dark or semi-sweet chocolate. Unsweetened plain (Greek) yogurt, thank you very much. And don't come near me with sweetened applesauce.

So it's odd that I've been obsessed with marshmallows for several months now. It probably started way back when Martha printed a recipe for them and I couldn't imagine why anyone would bother to make a stupid marshmallow. And then I had one someplace and couldn't believe how much better they are: the creamy texture, and flavor options.

Then Jane posted photos of her colored marshmallows, and that was that.

So Tsia and I finally took some time this afternoon to make some ourselves. And it's so easy! I was envisioning a giant mess: clouds of sugar everywhere, our feet glued to the floor with the stuff, and hours of messy cleanup. Not at all! A few pans, the mixer, and we had ourselves some these little powdered sugar beauties.

But the best part is the surprise inside: bright blue and peppermint flavored!

I have to say, however, they are puuuuure sugar and a little gelatin. Not my usual thing. If I ever make them again (and I think I've gotten them out of my system, really) I'll try oiling the pan instead of using the recommended parchment: it sticks too much and was a bit tricky to remove. I was starting to get worried that Dr. S would get bored and wander away as I was in the middle of peeling it off, with the gluey parchment sheets attached to my hands.

Cutting them was simple as can be, however. I quickly discovered that if you sift powdered sugar on top, you can hold them with one hand while cutting firmly with the other using a serrated knife. Then a quick dip in the powdered sugar (because the three cups of sugar and 1 1/4 cups of corn syrup we already used to make them weren't enough, don't you know) and they're done!

Update: Oh, and look! We're not the only ones getting our fix!

Hey, a finished project!

I spent a few in-between minutes over the holidays finishing some doll quilts I had started a while ago. The dog block came from this flickr photo that I copied by sketching free-hand and sort of estimating the measurements to cut the various pieces. Not the most efficient method, but it was interesting to try.

And the Japanese fabrics were part of a sample package from Quilt Market. They were already cut into little squares, so I just quickly stitched them together to make the fastest quilt top ever.

It occured to me as I was putting these quilts on Tsia's wall that I've never shown you her "new" bedroom since she outgrew her closet room and moved into half of our bedroom. It's tiny, but she has a window and I've tried to make it as cozy as I can. I still need to make more doll quilts for the rest of the wall, but they're coming along slowly.

The bookcase is open on both sides and separates her side of the room from ours. It works for now, and I've used the bottom two shelves for Tsia's stuff, with the upper shelves holding all Todd's art books facing our side of the room.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

First day

Ah, a new year! I hope you enjoyed your holidays. I certainly enjoyed my little unannounced break; it's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't blog for a week or two!

We spent our holidays mostly with friends, which I always enjoy. Since swearing off holiday travel a number of years ago, we've found that New York is really the perfect setting for a terrific Christmas, and our tradition seems to have evolved into a very low-key, relaxed celebration. With virtually no new year's celebration at all, although I can never resist vowing to take a photo every day at the start of the new year. I don't last more than a week, usually, but I've vowed to try again...

Tsia still enjoys dabbling in photography, herself. We were at the playground this afternoon, enjoying a bit of spring (!) weather, and I was flipping through the photos on an old memory chip in the camera (I found it under the rug about a month after I lost it) only to come across this glamourous shot. Pretty much the same sight as a photo she took about three months ago, poor kid. Mommy hard at work, fretting over the details on her pattern instructions.

But the pattern testing results have been trickling in and our print deadlines are just two weeks away, so the end of the first round is in sight. Hurray! You know what they say about all work and no play. I'm ready for some play!