Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End Update

Hello blogosphere! Oh how I have missed you blog! As you may have gathered from my absence and the note Val wrote explaining said absence, the holiday season has been a little crazy and I didn't have the insight to organize and prepost for the month of December, leaving me with virtually no time to keep you all updated. This last month of 2009 has been fantastic in terms of sales and keeping up with the demand has led to several late night stints.

Now to bring you up to speed with what my month looked like. I had originally planned on writing a post for each of these updates but given that this is the last day of 2009 I will do my best to give you the smooshed up version.




Before Christmas I hosted a table for our church Christmas tea party in which I used all sustainable, repurposed, or vintage products to decorate my table. I used cloth napkins, vintage snack sets purchased at a local second hand store, repurposed candle holders left over from my wedding, and extra ornaments dumped into a glass urn to decorate my table. And what eco-friendly table would be complete without including a reusable coffee sleeve.











Even earlier than the tea was The Holiday Food and Gift Festival, a local show that turned out to be a delight. My shades and coffee sleeves got some good exposure and while initial sales were a little low, I have made quite a few sales since based on the exposure I received. This was the show that Val was here to help me prepare for.







This year we did our best to give as many handmade gifts as possible for Christmas. I made several aprons for friends and family. The gifts that were not handmade were either slightly used (books) or had some utilitarian function (cooking utensils, etc). This was the first year where we took large strides toward my ultimate goal of taking The Handmade Pledge.

A lot of changes have taken place here at Dot&Line over the last year and I am excited to see what 2010 brings! I hope you will continue to join us in our exploration of purposeful living, creativity and environmental consciousness. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Devoted to the Art of the Lecture

I was blessed on Christmas Day this year to be given the gift I needed most, and it came to me in the form of a lecture by Richard Florida on the rise of the “Creative Class”. In recent months I’ve taken to listening to lectures whenever the opportunity presents itself, so if I’m washing dishes, wrapping presents, on a road trip, sitting in an airport, or performing some other necessary but mostly mindless task I typically have my earbuds in and my mp3 player set to Podcasts. So, while I spent a significant number of hours wrapping the gifts my mother was giving to everyone, the presents I had purchased for loved ones were still mostly in their original shopping bags come Christmas morning. Luckily my family was not getting together until the afternoon, so I put on a pot of coffee, dialed up the radiator, and settled myself on the floor with the wrapping paper, ribbon, scissors, and Big Ideas, “the only regularly scheduled program in North America devoted to the art of the lecture.”

It’s difficult for me to put into words how exactly Mr. Florida’s lecture affected me, and frankly some of my revelations are a little too personal for me to feel comfortable posting them publicly, but over the course of the 57 minutes I became more and more excited, more and more elated, and when it was over I laid on the floor of the living room in my little apartment and wept with joy. And then I called Annie.

Mr. Florida’s book is winging its way to me from a warehouse in Utah as I write, and I look forward to diving more deeply into his work, but I am oddly certain that the greatest revelations his book has to offer me have already been imparted by his lecture. It was as though the hyper-distillation of years of study into a one hour talk was specifically designed to hit every button I had and eradicate all the fears I’d been nurturing for months. So while the detailed examination of those now extinct phobias will also be a joyful exercise, it is the lecture I will always remember, and the way it left me lying open and freed and new, alone in my apartment on Christmas morning.

“The Art of the Lecture.” How true. Powerful and dense and precise and bold, this art form has so much to offer and asks so little of its audience. And thanks to TVO you can sample knowledge from a myriad of subjects, tasting wisdom in bite-sized helpings, and perhaps find a lecturer who is an expert in the insight you need most.

While Richard Florida’s lecture has had the greatest impact on me, it is by no means the only lecture that has changed my perspective and informed my life. Other TVO episodes worthy of high praise are Margaret Atwood’s Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, Christopher Hitchens’s The Ten Commandments, and Margaret Visser’s The Gift of Thanks.

And if you’re interested in the origins of morality, many PBS stations have been airing Justice, the lectures of philosopher Michael Sandel as delivered to his Harvard class. The arrogance and willful ignorance of some of his students can be a little grating, but Mr. Sandel takes it all in stride and gracefully delivers lectures that rise above his students’ selfishness without also flying over their heads.

If you have further suggestions of where to find great lectures or thoughts on examples of this art form that have affected you, I’d love to hear them. Happy learning!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Last Minute Gift Idea

As I’m sure you’re all aware, December is NBABBABAAGITSNB month. Which, of course, stands for National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month. What’s that you say? You weren’t aware? Well, neither was I, until yesterday when I stumbled across the blog “White Readers Meet Black Authors” in which Carleen Brice (an author herself) invites people of all races to read books by black authors. In an introductory post titled, “You’re Invited!” Ms. Brice greets booklovers:

Welcome readers of all races, shapes and sizes. Here is where you'll be safely, carefully introduced to books written by black people. Now, don't be alarmed. The books are written by black people, but like other books, they can be read by anybody. In fact, we WANT you to read our books. Don't let the fact that publishers and booksellers put us in the back in the special section of the store scare you. They do that because they want African American readers to be able to find us easily, which is a good thing. However, it has come to our attention that it also puts some of the rest of you off.

So we are extending an official invitation for you to check out our section of the bookstore.

This blog came into my path at exactly the perfect time. A few minutes previously I had asked my mother, “Did you ever think of anything you want for Christmas?” And she said, “Yeah, actually I’d like to find a new series of books to read. I liked the Harry Potter and Ender’s Game books, so something new along those lines.” And I sat there thinking, “Well, I don’t know of any more magic realism or science fiction series that would suit my mother’s tastes. None that she hasn’t already read, anyway.” And then into my lap fell Ms. Brice’s blog. She even has a post devoted to science fiction/fantasy writers.

So, this Christmas my Mom is getting:

Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler. This is the full Xenogenesis trilogy in one volume. (All synopses in this post are from
Barnes & Noble.com)

The acclaimed trilogy that comprises LILITH'S BROOD is multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winner Octavia E. Butler at her best. Presented for the first time in one volume, with an introduction by Joan Slonczewski, Ph.D., LILITH'S BROOD is a profoundly evocative, sensual — and disturbing — epic of human transformation.Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story...
Mom will also be receiving books one and two of a fantasy series by new author Leslie Ann Moore. Book one, Griffin’s Daughter, won the 2008 Ben Franklin Award for Best First Book.

Moore's novel tells of a young, orphaned woman who is scorned by society for her mixed human and elven blood. She discovers that she possesses a mysterious magical power and when she travels to Elven lands in search of answers, she discovers a shocking truth about her identity that will have epic consequences for an entire nation.

And then, because I was on a roll, I found the perfect book for my Dad! He loves suspense novels, especially anything to do with disease and/or religious mythology. So I bought him Blood Colony, by Tananarive Due.

There's a new drug on the street: Glow. Said to heal almost any illness, it is distributed by an Underground Railroad of drug peddlers. But what gives Glow its power? Its main ingredient is blood — the blood of immortals. A small but powerful colony of immortals is distributing the blood, slowly wiping out the AIDS epidemic and other diseases around the world.



And, of course, in the process of shopping for my family, I couldn’t help but be seduced by a book or two myself. So, Merry Christmas, me! I’ll be reading Getting Mother’s Body by Suzan Lori-Parks (I was familiar with her work as a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, but I had no idea she wrote novels as well) and Sugar, by Bernice L. McFadden. I was actually moved to purchase this last book by Ms. McFadden’s plea on her own blog, Naki. Sugar is celebrating its 10th anniversary on January 9th, 2010, and while it was highly praised and very successful upon its release, Sugar, along with countless other books by African American writers, is now disappearing from the shelves of bookstores. Why? Ms. McFadden poses and attempts to answer this question:

I don't rightly know why publishers market fiction written by African-Americans ONLY TO African-Americans - but it has become common practice. And by doing this, they've placed all AA authors in one box forcing them to compete for the attention of ONE audience.

The word that has been coined to describe what is happening to AA writers is: Seg-Book-Gation

Segregation is an abominable practice no matter how you slice it - but when you apply it to art -- it becomes a sin. Art of any medium should transcend color, race, class, religion and ethnicity, but alas, that is not the case in the publishing world.

If there is one truth I believe in unfailingly, it is the transcendent power of art. So, if you have any last minute shopping to do and are looking for the perfect gift idea, why not buy a book by a black author for a person on your Christmas list? Help someone fall in love with a new writer this year, and help tear down the barriers segregating the literary art form.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Best DIY/Home Improvement Project to Date


Things have been a bit busy in my neck of the Swedish woods this past week, as Project Baby Spice was completed (or, did it just start?) Tuesday, December 16 at 2:20 am. This little big guy - we call him Elijah - weighed in at 9 pounds 4 ounces, and when he can be convinced to stretch out he's about 21 1/4 inches. He was born at home, just a few feet from where he is in this picture (receiving his first sponge bath from his daddy). Our Persian friends shared a proverb with us from their culture, "Children bring life to a home", and I couldn't agree more.

Hope your Holidays are filled with lots of life and joy!
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Wrapping Extravaganza

It’s the most wonderful time of year…present wrapping time!!!

When I was a little girl I used to LOVE to help my mom wrap Christmas presents. I’d put my finger on the ribbon while she tied a knot, hand her pieces of tape when she needed them, and find gift tags that matched the wrapping paper. At some point I was promoted from my apprenticeship and allowed to wrap gifts myself. My first efforts were a little shaky but I improved steadily and it wasn’t long before my mother gave the job of wrapping entirely over to me. As it turns out, she hates wrapping presents. In fact, she used to get panic attacks thinking about all the presents she had to wrap for myself and my two brothers, not to mention the rest of her family. So when she saw that I got giddy at the thought of rolls of crisp, shiny paper, spools of delicate curling ribbon, and endless piles of presents waiting to be made into works of holiday art, Mom joyfully handed over the reins.

I’ve been doing all the family’s Christmas wrapping (for every holiday I’ve been at home) ever since. I love seeing the pile of paper-clad presents sitting prettily under the tree, and watching it grow as I complete each gift. And somewhere around the 23rd or 24th of December a cluster of gift bags joins the collection – these are the presents for me. ;-)

For the past two years I have been blessed with a job at which I am responsible for the annual holiday gifts to customers which means I get to wrap about 100 presents. And I get paid. It’s my favorite time of the whole year. I set up a little “Santa’s Workshop” in the conference room and have an assembly line of tissue paper and bags and foil and ribbon. It’s FANTASTIC! I finished this year’s customer gifts last week and I must say, I am quite proud of the results.


Then, this past weekend I did a little holiday bonding with my mother, and while we drank pumpkin spice coffee and watched our favorite Christmas movies for the 872nd time, I set to work on Mom’s Christmas stash. Ta da!



But this year’s prize for best wrapped present goes to a gift from my mom to her brother-in-law. She bought him a series of seven books, but she had to buy them each separately as they are not sold as a set. I played around with the books for a while, trying to decide what the most interesting way to present them would be, and ultimately went with this:


Isn’t it beautiful? (That’s a rhetorical question. If you don’t think it’s beautiful then bugger off.)

I’ve got a few presents left to wrap and I’m already mourning the end of wrapping season. If anyone in the St. Louis area would like assistance adorning their holiday gifts just let me know!

Business Blessings!

Annie has been inundated with holiday orders for coffee sleeves, so she's currently running on no sleep and sewing frantically to keep up with demand. The increased sales are a boon, but the corresponding bane is less time for the blog. She may be absent 'round these parts til after Christmas, so wish her happy holidays and don't forget that coffee sleeves make great stocking stuffers! (I can do the shameless plug thing because it's not my product.)

-Val

Monday, December 14, 2009

Making the Most of the Space You Have

I bet I'm right in assuming that many of you readers may feel a little low on abundant space in your homes. Maybe it's a student dorm room, or a tiny NYC apartment, or a bedroom in a house filled with roommates. On the other hand, perhaps you are the proud owner of your first home, or living alone for the first time, or have three extra guest rooms in a sprawling colonial. Despite which category you fall into, it seems that we – and our possessions – are capable of growing into whatever accommodations are available, and feeling cramped can happen in any sized environment.

I've mentioned before how acutely we felt this when we moved from our undeservingly-generous-to-us housing situation in Boston to our Swedish cave. And, I've certainly spent a good deal of time explicating on our lack of know-how when it came to making the most of the space we do have. To our minimalist minds, less is more. And, so very often this is the case. But, there is a limit. For example, it doesn't make sense to have no book cases if the result of that will be stacks of books and papers littered on the floor.

Most recently we've encountered this reality as we attempt to get ready for Baby Spice (ten days over the due date as of today, in case you were curious). In general, I am not a fan of homes that succumb to Everything Baby, where there's nary a space that plays coy to the question of whether or not children reside there. In reaction to this, and a desire to not over-clutter our cave, we resisted buying a lot of the standard baby fare. No crib, no room for one. No baby bath tub, it would take up far too much space for the number of times we would use it (although, I must admit to lusting after this nifty number I read about on another blog this week). Our baby items are pretty much limited to clothes, blankets, books (I firmly believe kids are never too young to be read to!), cloth diapers, and the numerous stuffed animals we've been gifted.

However, Keith convinced me that a changing table with drawers would be a wise addition. Yes, this piece of furniture is fairly sizable, but the the benefits to us made it worth it in the end. For the past several months, everything baby-related had been stored neatly away in boxes under our bed. This is a brilliant solution – when you don't need to access a clean outfit every few hours, or need to have clean diapers within arms' reach of where your baby is wriggling. And, of course, there is the obvious benefit of having a surface designated to holding our baby's exposed butt. Fortunately, we have a perfectly-sized nook that wasn't of much use in any other way, and IKEA, yet again, had the perfect solution for us.

This piece cost us around $200 (it's cheaper in USD, so consider yourselves lucky!). It converts into a regular dresser, simply by taking off the full-sized changing table piece to reveal a standard dresser top (or, if you happen to, ahem, forget to put the second box in your cart during your first trip to IKEA, it will also convert from dresser to changing table... just saying). It is solid wood and extremely sturdy. Its two drawers are enough to hold all our baby clothes and several blankets as well; the shelves are big enough to hold all things diaper-related, and are deep enough to act as storage for extra wipes, burp cloths, and other baby-related items.

This is a case where more is actually more. It is far more practical and esthetically pleasing to have these things together and easily accessible than to have them tucked under the bed, or in the closet, or stacked in piles on the ground. While I wasn't sure at first that buying a relatively large piece of furniture – particularly one that I thought would only serve the purpose of changing diapers – was the right move, it turns out it was exactly the right thing for us.

How about you? How have you made the most of the space you have - whether large or small - in your home?

Friday, December 11, 2009

DIY: Cutting Your Own Christmas Tree

I have always been a fan of fresh cut real Christmas trees. In the past picking out a tree has consisted of little more than showing up at a tree lot here in town. This year however, we decided we would purchase a permit and head to the forest to cut down our own tree. While cutting down trees may be controversial, rest assured that we will be planting a tree in the spring to replace it.

If you want to cut down your own tree here are some DIY tips:

1. Wear snow boots. We learned this the hard way.
2. Don't forget rope for tying it to your car and a saw (or hatchet) for chopping down the tree.
3. Use a 4 wheel drive vehicle, especially where there's snow
4. Dress warm!
5. Stick to the rules! Get the proper permits and documentation required to cut your own tree.
6. Pack water, blankets and food...just in case of car trouble.

When we set out to find our tree Peter and I had a dream of beautiful full branches. The tree we found is darling but does not meet this expectation. Our little tree is rivals Charlie Brown's for it's sparse character but we don't care! We will enjoy it all the same.

Here are some pics:



We look forward to transforming it with decorations tonight!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More Holiday fun with Dreidels

The holidays have always been full of simple joys in my family. On any given Christmas morning you could find us all playing with harmonicas, yo-yo's and cazoos! One particularly memorable gift was a Dreidel given to me, my sister and our cousins as children. Not only did this open our eyes to other traditions, it also provided endless hours of fun among the group of us as we gambled the chocolate coins we received in our stockings.

I hope you enjoy these fun handmade dreidels as much as I do!


This wood dreidel from dreidelmaker is lovely!



How about this hand painted dreidel by The Secret of Style:


And these clay dreidels by Victory Blue Designs:



These glass dreidels by Bat Chen Designs are so beautiful!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Chocolate Mission

It’s that time of year: ice is on the roads, coats are now required attire, parents are taking their children to the mall to stand in line for 2 hours for the opportunity to sit on a stranger’s lap, and Christmas carols are now socially accepted as valid music options (though personally, I’ve had Straight No Chaser’s holiday albums on a continuous loop since Halloween). And again this year I find myself craving that most glorious of winter beverages, the perfect cup of hot chocolate.

Now, I know that there are thousands of delicious cocoa recipes in the world and that I could spend all year trying them and be continually amazed by the earth’s collective chocolate genius. However, when I look for the perfect cup of hot chocolate my options are actually a little limited due to two immutable restrictions: 1) I have a permanently bare refrigerator, and 2) I’m lazy. And, well, 3) I live alone and there’s rarely such a thing as a single serving recipe for anything, let alone hot chocolate, but 3 is not necessarily permanent so I’ll stick with 1 & 2 as my main reasons for seeking an instant powdered cocoa mix to satisfy my festive desire.

When this year’s cocoa bug first hit I was with Annie – it was Thanksgiving and we had just visited Nessie for the third time and I suggested we stop at Walgreens (being the only store visibly open) and pick up some hot chocolate. Annie being Annie, however, she already had the makings for Mexican hot chocolate at home. It was truly delicious and she told me I’d most likely be able to find it in a grocery store at home, but the problem is there was milk required, and also lots of stirring and standing next to the stove, and so I decided the Mexican chocolate, though delicious, was not for me.

And so while at home the following weekend and laid out with a vicious cold I started experimenting. First, the standard generic brand hot cocoa mix, one package, 6 ounces of water. Too watery, not enough chocolate taste. After cleansing my palette with a cup of tea, I tried 1 ½ packets generic cocoa mix with 6 ounces of water. Ahhh, much better, though still definitely lacking something.

On my way to work the following Monday, still nursing my super-sized cold, I stopped at the grocery store and grabbed a box of Swiss Miss. Then I added 1 ½ packets to 6 ounces of water and (here’s the genius part) a splash of Half & Half from the office fridge! (Note: I do not count Half & Half as a violation of restriction #2 because I usually have it at home. See, I care far more about drinking a decent cup of coffee than I do about eating a decent meal, so while the shelves of my fridge may be desolate there is almost always a pint of cream in the door.) Now this concoction was quite good – the cream gave it just the velvety consistency I was looking for without requiring me to buy a gallon of milk that I’d have no other use for and without necessitating the use of the stove or excessive stirring.

I was willing to settle for my new recipe as this year’s go-to cup when I did a stint of catsitting for my mother. My mother has some kind of unusual lucky streak when it comes to winning crap she doesn’t want, and somehow every year she winds up bringing home a basketful of hot chocolate mix from the office raffle, which then languishes in the recesses of her cupboards until I arrive to liberate it. Another fantastic quirk of my mama’s is that she always has a can of aerosol whipped cream stashed in the fridge, and it’s usually within the expiration date. I have no idea what she uses it for since I’ve never known her to bake and she’s not a frequent purchaser of pies, but somehow Reddi-Whip is ever present in her kitchen. Anyway, while marveling at the wonders of cable television and doing my laundry for free, I created this year’s best cup of instant hot chocolate to date: 1 packet Café Primo chocolate hazelnut (mmmmmm!) mix, ½ packet Swiss Miss standard milk chocolate mix, 8 ounces water, several tablespoons Half & Half, and a giant pillowy helping of whipped cream artfully piled on top, all served in a tall holiday-themed snowman mug. It. Was. Heaven.

I’ll continue to experiment as the season continues. I may even get ambitious at some point and try to duplicate my high school drama teacher’s chocolate miracle which she used to give out at the holidays – it was a dry mix but it was homemade and I suspect it may have contained powered sugar, but she never relented when I begged for the recipe – but for now I’m content to swipe premium mix from my mom’s house and make a one-time investment in Reddi-whip to satisfy my seasonal sweet tooth.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Artist Profile: Rachel Wall of Twilight Visions

It's that gift giving time of year and I can't think of a better handmade gift than a lovely piece of jewelry from Twilight Visions. Here's a little bit about owner and designer, Rachel Wall.



1. Where is your business based out of?

At the moment I’m based out of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. That changes every couple of years with how much I move though!


2. Where are you from originally?

I was born in Napa, California but grew up and spent a large part of my life in Alaska so I consider that home.


3. How long have you been an artist and/or business owner?

I’ve always been an artisan, but didn’t start selling my work until about nine years ago at festivals and galleries. I’m very new to the world of online selling though, and have had a shop on Etsy for about a year.


4. Where do you get your creative inspiration?

I get a lot of my inspiration from ancient tribal arts and crafts, nature, nostalgic styles, bohemian and everywhere else in between. I feel most inspired after going to a museum. Inspiration is everywhere.


5. What does your creative process entail?

This question is always the hardest to answer. My process usually changes with the medium. It usually starts with the color I want to work with or certain piece I want to make something with. I’ll hold it in my hand for a while and envision a design. I then try different combinations of complimenting that original piece until I come up with a basic theme. After that my hands do the rest and there have been many times I end up with something completely different than my original intent.

When it comes to the other mediums I work with it’s usually impulsive. I love photography and working with acrylics and textiles as well.


6. Would you say your environment (where you live, work, play) influences your creative process? If so, how?

Yes I would say my environment influences my work. Since I move a lot I get exposed to different styles and personalities. I have been inspired by people’s personalities which is always fun.


7. Who are your creative mentors?

I would have to say every artist out there. We all mentor and inspire each other!


8. Tell us about the one project you would say you are most proud of.

So hard to pick just one so I’ll have to go with the pieces where I have upcycled. I like the challenge of coming up with a piece that had a prior life. I have made some really great pieces with vintage components. Many times those pieces have components from 4 or 5 different pieces of vintage jewelry. I’m in the middle of one right now that could possibly be one of my favorites. I have collected enough vintage leaf brooches to finally do it!


9. What do you enjoy doing when you're not creating?

I love the outdoors, hiking, traveling, eating good food and spending time with my man, friends and my cats. I’m a bit of a movie buff as well so I love watching obscure movies and discovering new independent filmmakers.


10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

This answer is so not going to be an expected one. In ten years I see myself as a biologist working in conservation. I deeply care about the environment and just went back to school last year to pursue a degree in biology. I was inspired while living in Pittsburgh and working for non-profit environmental lobby group to travel this path and I’m well suited for it. I will always create and am sure I’ll get even more inspiration as a biologist.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Cheer (and a couple updates)

Happy Holidays! Like Annie, I am deeply in the spirit of Christmas, and hope that - whatever holiday you are celebrating after Thanksgiving – you are feeling some holiday lovin' as well. I'll admit that some of my eagerness is simply re-channeled anticipation, previously directed at my baby who has yet to make his or her appearance. Unlike anticipated birth days, the start of celebrating Christmas here in Sweden is an exact science: Celebrations start the first day of Advent, or four Sundays before Christmas. In Sweden, this is the day that everyone goes to church, whether or not they usually find themselves there. Advent is more of a secular celebration than a religious one, and despite the very high number of cultures that are represented by Sweden's large immigrant population, Christmas is pretty much the only holiday that gets a nod this time of year. And by “nod” I mean “all encompassing bear hug that overtakes every street lamp, person, store window, concert hall, and cafe table in this city to infuse you with Christmas cheer whether you like it or not”. You could try to resist, but it would be futile.

Anyway, I've attempted some Christmas decorating around the apartment, hoping to add to the coziness factor that was started with trays of candles and softer lighting as the shorter days descended upon us. In previous years, the highlight of my decorating expertise has been the boxes of tack I sprayed around as I planned for my office's Tacky Christmas Party. It didn't exactly scream “class” and “cozy” as I was going for in my own home. But with a little Googling of “Martha Stewart” and “Christmas” I got a bit inspired. Here's what I came up with:

My mom always has fresh-cut greens around the house at Christmas – on the mantle, on the dining room table, tied to the mailbox. She has the luxury of simply going outside and snipping away at the various pine trees and holly bushes that reside in our yard; I resorted to paying for these fine specimens, which felt a little ridiculous, but what can I say? I work with what I have. Also, I love LOVE these mini-pointsettas. A word to the wise: They really are temperature-sensitive! Since taking this picture, I've wilted two of them since they were in the direct draft of the cracked window. Good effort, I'd like to think.

I loved these berry sprigs the first time I saw them, and think they look great in this vase. It's also a nice change to the top of our microwave, which is usually filled with crap, like my keys and Keith's wallet and a bowl of random produce, from old bananas and pears to garlic skins and loose potatoes. I like this look a lot more. (Ironically, I bought these at our local produce stand, but Keith, when returning our friends' car we had borrowed the other night, parked right in front of a bush of this type... if I need more, I now know where to go...)

This was super easy... I wish I had a few more greens to add to the tray, but it will do. Every evening we will plug in our Christmas lights and light many tea candles (I typically prefer slightly bigger ones, like these found at IKEA) and this is a nice little addition to the table between our two reading chairs.

I've got a few more things going on around the apartment, but I'm not convinced I haven't crossed the line into “obsessive” and “tacky” so I'll leave my sharing to the above.

What's your favorite way to decorate for the holidays?

***In other news, here are just a couple updates for you on previous posts:

The closet doors have finally been completed, and we are loving the fresh look our room has now.

I received my four wet bags from The Pat-a-Cake Baby, and love them even more than I thought I would. The fabrics are so brilliantly colored, and the construction and detail is extraordinary. I was so in love with them that - since they won't be used until I've got some dirty cloth diapers to deal with – I hung them from our closet doors to add some color and visual appeal to our room. This lasted about two days until Keith got fed up with having to manually move each bag every time he wanted to open or close his closets. Fair enough. Now they are tucked away in our new changing table awaiting this baby... just like me (well, I'm waiting, not tucked away... never mind).

Friday, December 4, 2009

DIY with Feather Love

Feathers are really in style this winter and I’m loving it! From earrings to headpieces to holiday wreaths, I can’t seem to get enough. I present to you a fun and simple DIY project to incorporate a little feather fun into your holiday season!

What you’ll need:
Clear glass ornaments
Feathers, whatever type and color you like
Pieces of ribbon for easy hanging



First start by removing the silver cap at the top of the ornament by pulling gently. Trim feathers as desired and carefully insert feathers until you have achieved desired look. I prefer fewer feathers, allowing you to still see through the ornament for added dimension but this is totally your call.



Once feathers are inserted to desired look, reinsert ornament cap, add ribbon and...

Voila!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Getting in the Christmas Mood with Stockings

The holidays are upon us! A Christmas gets closer and closer I can't help but to think about my favorite things of the holiday season. Topping off the list are Christmas stockings. Some families stop doing stockings once their kids are of a certain age. This is not the case with my family. "Santa" still puts together a stocking for us every year and it is one of my favorite things to open on Christmas morning. For me the fun lies in the mystery of the stocking as one can never be sure of what will be included. Stocking items can range from jewelry to a kazoo and that childlike anticipation of de-socking the joy is one that finds me year after year.

Today I thought I would share some of my favorite stockings with you!

These eco-friendly felt stockings embrace a simplistic beauty that would look lovely hanging by the fire. Click here for more details and variety.



I love the personalized feel of these stockings by SuzyQ Quilts. They are very elegant and traditional...two qualities that make for a nice Christmas.



This stocking by beckaboo is perfectly suited for the kid in all of us. Such a happy little Christmas monster.

Link

I love the tropical vibe (yet still somehow traditional) of these stockings by Prudence Octavia.


Thanks for reading. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for a fun holiday DIY project!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Best of Twin Falls

As you are already aware, I spent Thanksgiving week in Twin Falls, Idaho with the sublimely talented Annie. I assume it goes without saying that I went to Twin Falls with the purpose of visiting my best friend and not for the tourism. However, this sleepy little city in the middle of the desert far exceeded my expectations when it came to providing interesting attractions and opportunities for excitement. And so today I give you, the best of Twin Falls, according to moi:


My first sensory delight occurred on the plane as we circle the Boise airport, and on the drive from Boise to Twin Falls I acquired an even keener appreciation for: the scenery. Now, I suppose if you live in Idaho and you routinely trek from one side of the state to the other, the endless miles of desert and plateaus and the views of distant mountains could seem a little blasé. But to someone who’s spent the majority of her life in the Midwest and on the East Coast, the Idaho landscape’s stark and desolate beauty was novel and thrilling. I saw my very first live-and-in-person plateau!!! My only previous experience with these flat-topped geological wonders was in a fourth grade textbook, and here they were, bold and powerful in their seeming defiance of the usual curves and slopes of nature. The only topographical feature I found more compelling than the plateaus were the canyons. As we drove over one and peered into its depths I spotted the only patches of green I’d thus far seen in Idaho, and pools of inviting blue water nestled at the bottom of the enormous crevice. I could go on and on about the miraculous natural scenery, but for now suffice it to say that I have a new appreciation for the desert landscape, and I understand why so many artists – poets, painters, novelists – feel drawn to the barren beauty of the North American West.


My second distinct moment of sensual joy came on Tuesday morning, when Annie introduced me to her favorite coffee house, Java. Though I was more than intrigued by the prospect of a “Keith Richards” (the contents of which I am still unsure, though I surmise from the name that it is thoroughly caffeinated) I was highly skeptical of whether Java could live up to MokaBe’s in St. Louis, The Java House in Iowa City, or New York City’s Abraço. So imagine my dumbfounded awe when Java surpassed them all. And though I was overjoyed with Tuesday’s “Keith Richards”, I was even more impressed by Wednesday’s “Bowl of Soul”. Part of me grieved that I was visiting during a holiday week, as we were prevented from going to Java on Thursday morning. But on Friday I sipped my final Java-crafted drink with relish, and marveled at the unlikelihood of tasting the best coffee of my life in the tiny isolated town of Twin Falls, Idaho. I wondered if enough non-Idaho-natives would visit Java to spread the word nationwide that there is an espresso oasis teetering on the lip of a canyon in the vastness of Magic Valley. Probably not. Java will likely remain a small town wonder appreciated only by the initiated. But perhaps its relative anonymity is part of its allure.


Speaking of small town wonders, possibly the greatest, or at least most uniquely memorable, moment of my trip to Twin Falls was a discovery of the type that is virtually exclusive to smaller communities: on Tuesday evening Annie and I decided to go for a spree in the mall. Upon entering the mall drive, we spotted signs touting the “Mile of Lights” now available for viewing. Some marketing genius thought to increase traffic to the mall during the holiday season by erecting Christmas light displays around the perimeter of the shopping center, and inviting potential shoppers to see the Mile of Lights. Well, intrigued, Annie and I took the bait. We tuned the car’s radio to the appointed station as directed by the signs, and listened as our disembodied hostess advised us that the best and safest way to view the Mile of Lights was from our car, with the headlights on, keeping our arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. We were giggling furiously even before the dedicated station crackled and fizzled out of range as we drove a few hundred feet down the road. Apparently, lacking sophisticated broadcasting equipment, the Mile of Lights narration is only audible from a few points along the circular route, and its designated station is more frequently dominated by country music than official Mile of Lights commentary. Somehow this only made the attraction more enjoyable, and we cruised happily along the mall drive, laughing heartily at the glowing depictions of Evil Knievel attempting to launch himself over the canyon, of polar bears advertising Mike’s Refrigeration, and of Santa Claus merrily base jumping. And just as we came to the end of the Mile and were already seizing with hilarity, we encountered the coup de grâce of Christmas decorations: a forty-foot, twinkling, festive depiction of Nessie, the Lochness monster, sporting a stocking cap and Christmas scarf. Now we were laughing so hard we had to pull over. And take a picture. We so enjoyed our magical Mile of Lights experience that on Wednesday we returned, this time with Annie’s husband Peter and sister Jessica in tow. And again we oo’ed and aah’ed and heehee’ed and haha’ed the full mile. And on Thursday, feeling emotional and melancholy at the prospect of parting the following day, we took one last joy ride around the mall, and bade Nessie a fond farewell.


It was a marvelous trip and the best week I’ve had in years. Twin Falls now holds a special place in my heart, not only as the home of my best friend, but as a place of beauty, of unexpected culinary delight, and a source of guileless merriment of the kind best shared with loved ones while cocooned in warmth and holiday cheer. I knew all along that I would enjoy my trip to Idaho and the opportunity to spend a full week with one of my favorite people in the world – what I didn’t know is that Twin Falls would have so much to add to our experience and that the local landscape would burn itself indelibly on my heart.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Annie here. Just wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and say that Val is visiting me here in Idaho for the holiday and I have put her to work helping me prepare for our upcoming vendor show this Friday throug Sunday. Kate is the star of the blogging this week with her Monday post as this will be the only other post for the remainder of the week. This was not the original plan but unfortunately preparation for the show is all consuming and I have sucked Val into the vortex of my stress.

If you are in the Twin Falls area please stop by our booth at the Holiday Food & Gift Festival. This years festival will be held at Immanual Lutheran School Friday and Saturday 10:00-7:00 and Sunday 12:00-6:00.

Happy Thanksgiving and see you next week!

Monday, November 23, 2009

See Kate Conquer: Thanksgiving Dinner at 39 Weeks Pregnant

Well, that's the hope anyway. I figured having an event to focus on – like hosting six friends and two babies for, arguably, the biggest meal of the year – was a good way to keep myself focused on something other than BABY. Of course, that was a month and a half ago before I extended the invitation (with certain restrictions - like water breaking - applying) and before the third trimester exhaustion set in. But! With no exit strategy yet made known to me by my inhabitant, I am proceeding as planned.

Last year's preparations

For some reason, being away from the States last year and this year for Thanksgiving has made me love it even more. Absence simply making my heart grow fonder, perhaps? Or maybe it's that I've had some really great Thanksgivings in recent years... Keith and I hosting my family in Cambridge, MA... being with his family in Frametown, WV and having my first go at 4-wheeling... joining friends for several years running in their traditional get-together. There's no one way to celebrate, and most everyone allows themselves an excuse to be grateful and just a little bit more sentimental than usual. Of course, for others Thanksgiving is just the one-day initiation to a month-plus of stress and obligation. If that's you, then this post has your name on it; I just want to focus on the food today!

Turkey
I'm serving a turkey breast this year. Whole turkeys are hard to find in my neck of the Swedish woods; I did see them at one store over the weekend, but it had all sorts of additives (salt, sugar, water) in it that I'd rather not have. My mom taught me it's worth investing in meat, be it a Thanksgiving turkey, a Christmas ham, or an Easter lamb. It's kind of the star of the show; why take a risk? So, I'll be heading to Saluhallen, Göteborg's famous indoor market, to get a nice hefty turkey breast (and, I won't have space issues in my tiny oven).

Stuffing
This is my favorite dish. I love stuffing. I could go to Thanksgiving dinner and eat only stuffing. I use this basic bread stuffing recipe from The Joy of Cooking, again something copied from my mother. I add the optional pecans and raisins, and typically use a sweet bread (challah is wonderful!). I prefer fresh herbs to dried - and generous measurements at that - and always, always make extra (this year I'm making a triple batch).

Potatoes, Mashed
I don't have a tried and true recipe I keep returning to for mashed potatoes; instead, I just boil a bunch of potatoes (unpeeled) and add my pick of various dairy to the mashed result: butter, sour cream, crème fraiche, milk, cheese. If it's not Thanksgiving I might add herbs and/or garlic, but for the Big Day I prefer something a bit more classic.

Potatoes, Sweet
I love sweet potatoes. Delicious, healthy, versatile... For Thanksgiving dinner I will slice them in ½ rounds, toss with olive oil and S&P and bake starting in a cool oven. The exact recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated, my favorite cooking magazine and one of my favorite cooking web sites.

Pecan Pie
It's funny... I don't think we ever had pecan pie on Thanksgiving when I was growing up, but when I do Thanksgiving it's the only dessert I serve. I use this alternative crust option (given about half-way through the recipe) with this filling, adding a layer of chocolate in between, and served with real vanilla ice cream and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. (If you've never taken a look at the cross section of a nutmeg, you gots to! It's really beautiful.)

This is my planned menu – so far – for Thursday. I love dinner rolls, but I don't have a perfected recipe and there are already so many carbs that I'm fairly certain my non-American guests won't notice their absence and I'll save on effort in any way I can this year. I hope to have sauteed kale as another veggie dish, but I've had a heck of a time finding it since last February, when they were selling it dirt cheap by the kilo (I love variations on this recipe). There will of course be gravy, but that's a last-minute thing for me, something I don't quite know how to plan, and instead I just hope for the best! I love sauces and chutneys, so if I can track down some cranberries I'll have those on the side in some simmered, spiced form as well. For wine, I've got a couple bottles of this year's Beaujolais Nouveau (which I am still convincing myself to part with even though I won't be enjoying it in as much a personal way as in an observational one... sigh!), or I might go with some tasty Pinot Noir. For a white option, perhaps a Pinot Gris. Other than the Beaujolais, I don't really know what I'm talking about when it comes to wine; I asked my dad what he was serving and figured his tastes transcend international waters.




My Thanksgiving Table Favorite

Have I missed something obvious (very probable with my distracted mind these days)? What's your favorite dish, and what quirky item is a Thanksgiving spread never without in your home? Happy Thanksgiving Week, everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Iowa Connection

I have some good news for those of you who live in Iowa City and the surrounding area. Our reusable coffee sleeves are now being sold at Sisters Garden on Hwy.1 between Iowa City and Kalona! I gave you all a glimpse of their shop a couple of weeks ago and am honored to have my products there among so many other great pieces.

Sisters Garden is having a holiday open house tomorrow through Saturday. For more details check out their blog: sistersgardeniowa.blogspot.com. It is my understanding that free coffee will be served while you peruse their offerings!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Ninja Quest

So, I’ve been a little slack on the adventuring lately – been feeling slightly under the weather – so for today’s post I’m going to relate an adventure I had a few months ago, when I decided to try to be a ninja

I was having a crisis of creativity one night, and bored with my city and my situation I called my baby brother. After explaining that I'd freaked out over being trapped here I was pretty much out of things to say, and he wasn't all that forthcoming with the conversation, so I blurted out an idea that had been floating randomly in my head for a while. "Hey, I'm thinking about taking a martial art. Got any recommendations for me?" And he did. After discussing my many options and calling our older brother to consult, he recommended I train in ninjutsu at M.B. Dojo with some guy who's apparently a bigshot in the art. So I sent the instructor an email describing my goals (self defense & physical confidence) and asking for information about classes and their training philosophy.

I received a very encouraging reply in which the instructor said that all that was required to train at their studio was a good heart, humility, and the willingness to learn. Check (I hope), check, double check. I made an appointment to go in for my free trial class.

And thus my quest to become a ninja became...quest FAIL! I suck at being a ninja. Not only did it take Mark (aka "Sensei") showing me a movement about 8 times before I could half-way imitate it, I then completely forgot how to do it after having done it correctly for 5 minutes. Seriously. It was a "do it across the floor" kind of thing, and I'd manage to make it to the wall executing a valiant attempt at the move all the way, then I'd turn around and COMPLETELY FORGET HOW TO DO IT. I kid you not, I now completely regret every time I ever rolled my eyes in math class or shook my head at the poor sap who wasn't keeping up in chemistry, because now I know what it's like to have your brain utterly abandon you. I turned around and had no idea what the crap to do. It. Was. Awful. Of course, that wasn't the only part of the class that sucked. Other humiliations included: freaking out when my partner knocked me to the ground (ok, not freaking out, but failing to fall correctly and letting out a rather comical "oof"), completely forgetting how to do yet another move after having done it successfully for three minutes, backwards resulting in a large bruise on my nail bed, being the only person not wearing all black (he said "athletic wear" and so I showed up in my gray yoga pants and blue tank top with cutesy-baby-blue sports bra peaking out while everyone else was wearing head to toe black), not knowing any of the rituals (such as bowing when entering the mats, calling Mark "Sensei", entering the building through the correct door, etc.), and basically sucking so horribly at everything that I've been periodically blushing while writing this every time I remember another embarrassing moment.

I debated with myself for several days over whether I should return for another class and push through the humiliation and my utter lack of physical ability. Ultimately, I decided not to. I admit, a large part of this decision is the result of my own cowardice: I have always been very poor at any pursuit requiring athletic prowess – martial arts, sports, dancing, you name it. In fact, physical endeavors inspire a brand of fear in me that borders on terror. But, in addition to being reluctant to subject myself to further torture, I also wanted to spare the other students at M.B. Dojo the tediousness of my presence. During my one and only class, Sensei frequently stated that they were “taking it easy” and “returning to basics” no doubt for my benefit. If I were to start attending regularly I would run the risk of either setting the entire class back or forcing Sensei to devote an inordinate amount of his attention to me. Neither seemed fair to the initiated group at the dojo, so I concluded that bowing out (pun intended) was really best for all involved.

And though it’s unlikely that anyone who attended that class will ever read this post, I would like to give a shout out to the lovely, kind, and welcoming people at the dojo, and thank them for allowing me to intrude on their class. Despite my abominable performance and the fact that I was depriving them of a challenging class, they were all welcoming, kind, and supportive. One student, in particular, stood out to me. She had this peaceful kindness, and the most genuinely friendly smile I've ever seen, and she quietly corrected me when I (once again) completely forgot what I was doing halfway through it, and she looked at me with compassion and an expression that said, "don't worry about it, I've been there." I instinctively liked this girl a whole lot. I'm really grateful for her help and her non-judgmental advice, and her warm and welcoming smile. Thanks for being awesome, Sara(h).

So, while I did not pursue ninja-hood after my introductory class, I did learn a few things about my limits, my fears, and the kindness of strangers that night. And that’s quite a wealth of knowledge gained in a few short hours. Sorry I wasn’t a better student, M.B. Dojo, but I am grateful for the opportunity to learn, even if the lessons I took away aren’t the ones I was expecting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Artist Profile: Rae of MudStarCeramics

It's always a special day when I get to feature an artist that I have had the opportunity to collaborate with. Rae of Mud Star Ceramics contacted me about doing a couple of custom lampshades for her new Rosie Lamps. It was really great working with her and a lot of fun seeing the end result. (Check out the end of the post for pictures and info on where to buy.)

Enjoy!



1. Where is your business based out of?


Princeton, N.J.


2. Where are you originally from?

A small town in Central N.J. called Colts Neck. Now it's a fancy sort of town with kind of icky McMansions (sorry, Colts Neck), but when I was growing up, it was a beautiful quiet little place with lots of farms.


3. How long have you been an artist and/or business owner?

I've always had a very active imagination, so I think maybe I was always an artist. Even as a kid, I loved strange collections of things and I always kept a notebook of things that I liked - lots of lists. I remember taking one whole afternoon making up names for colors I liked. I think I was convinced Crayola would hire me when I graduated fifth grade.

I've only just started my business. It's about a year old. I like to say it sort of evolved in spite of me, instead of because of me. It started very small: making things for friends, then some custom lamps for an interior designer, and it sort of grew from there. It's all happened by accident really. Some kind people had nice things to say about my work and it was like that shampoo commercial: "...and they told two friends, and so on, and so on...."


4. Where do you get your creative inspiration?

I love pattern and color and am a little obsessed with repetition. I love architecture for that reason. I love modern art. But as us artists know, inspiration can come from anywhere. For example, I recently took a walk in downtown Princeton, where I've walked a million times and found all these beautiful patterns and colors, in the street grates, the vines on an old stucco wall, even in the garbage! I write a blog that is about inspiration: www.mudstarceramics.blogspot.com. You can see the photos from that walk there.

I also love getting inspiration from my customers. I love doing custom orders. It's a lot of fun to have people bring me a fabric from their bedroom pillows or a wall color and working with making a lamp inspired by those things. I love the smallness and contained nature of lamps. I think of them as small sculptures.


5. What does your creative process entail?

I keep copious notes in my notebook. I paste clippings and photos there. I draw in there. I keep inspiration boards in my studio. A project usually starts with a photo of something or a piece of fabric. My last lamp was prompted by a drawing by my seven year old son. It was a series of squiggles, each row colored with a different color, and outside the lines, of course! That inspired my Scribble Scrabble lamp. The glaze worked perfectly by dripping outside the lines.


6. Would you say your environment (where you live, work, play) influences your creative process? If so, how?

I try to keep inspiring things around me. I have my inspiration boards and swatches in the studio. I walk and walk and walk in my neighborhood and town. I'm lucky to live in a leafy town with a lot of history, but that still has a young energy to it because of the University here. I love the architecture of the old buildings on campus, and of the Arts and Crafts homes on some of the Tree streets. And even though it interferes with all the traffic patterns around here, I even love the construction sites with all the cool stone and rebar in their piles. I even like the darn cement mixers.


7.Who are your creative mentors?

Oh geez! How much time do you have? I love Beatrice Wood, for her goblets and gorgeous luster glazes. I love Russell Wright and Eva Zeisel for their simple lines. And sculptors Anne Hamilton and Tara Donovan for their "collections" of things, and for their use of repetition in strong ways. I love the fabrics of Marimekko for bold lines and colors. I love photographer Sally Mann for her gorgeous sense of ruin. And Charles and Ray Eames for their modern and practical playfulness and vision.


8. Tell us about the one project you would say you are most proud of.

That project has nothing to do with clay. It would be my two sons, Lucas and Colin, aged 10 and 7! They truly are the joys of my life and keep me laughing every single day, even when I don't feel like it.


9. What do you enjoy doing when you're not creating?

My husband laughs at me because he says I'm always making something. I love to cook and bake and love having dinner parties for good friends. I read a ton, even when I'm "stirring the sauce"! And I write and meet with a wonderful writing group that gets together once a week. I even just finished a monologue that is going to be performed on stage of a little theater in a couple of months!


10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope I'm still making things. I hope my children are happy, healthy young adults. I hope my husband still wants to hold my hand as we walk through town. I'd love to have a production line of lamps someday. I'd love to have a show that was all sculpture. And I hope I'm still as excited to crack that kiln as I was this morning.


Here is a picture of Rae's lamp with one of our custom lampshades. Isn't it fantastic?! The completed lamp is currently for sale at JANE, a new shop in Princeton, NJ. If you are in the area I implore you to pay a visit and see (or buy) Rae's completed "Rosie" lamp in person. If you are not in the area please check out her etsy site by clicking here.





Monday, November 16, 2009

(You definitely want this) In the Bag

My dear husband has graciously agreed to indulge my desire to cloth diaper our spawn. We've agreed that we're not going to be militant about it... If there are times that it makes sense to use disposables, we'll go for it and not feel bad. If, after a good-faith effort, the amount of energy it takes to wash and assemble our diaper supply is interfering with precious moments of sleep or much-needed adult conversation, we'll re-evaluate. But, for the time-being we are being optimistic in our choice, and I'm excited.

The first decision to make was, which cloth diaper will work for us? If you ever find yourself in a position where you are considering the same, know that there are many helpful blogs and blog posts devoted to helping you make an informed decision. Many suggest trying out several diapers from different brands, and basing your final decision on some real-world experience with your own child. Since my plan was to stock up on my trip back to the States this fall, I didn't have that luxury. So, I opted for a brand tested by a friend, and that also has received rave reviews all over the internet: Bum Genius. You Dot&Line devotees will appreciate their green option, made in bamboo, as well as the fact that this company was initially started by a mom modifying the cloth diapers she already had. (Etsy has many hand-made options available as well!) I opted for what I hope will be the most economic version (both financially and space-wise), the One Size 3.0, designed to grow with your baby from newborn to toddler.

Mr Bear Models the Bum Genius 3.0 in Moon Beam


One of the biggest turn-offs of cloth diapering is, of course, The Gross Factor (TGF). From what I can tell, TGF is enough to make even the most environmentally-conscious of parents rethink this one aspect of child-rearing. What do you do with a bunch of poopy, wet rags that are just sitting around waiting to violate your laundry room appliances? Admittedly, this is not all that glamourous to think through, much less deal with in actuality. However! Several creative types are already ahead of us on this one.

Introducing: The Wet Bag

http://ny-image2.etsy.com//il_fullxfull.102437934.jpg

thepatacakebaby's Large wet bag in Blue Zoo

Wet bags are made with some type of water-proof (and, here's hoping stank-proof) lining to hold your little one's deposits (or, your wet swim wear or other wet gear) until you're able to “take care of them” (I love euphemisms). Recently, I took it upon myself to delve into the plethora of Etsy shops to find some wet bags suitable to my anticipated needs. I ended up at thepatacakebaby, and chose four gorgeous creations to ensure we can keep it all “in the bag”. (thepatacakebaby has a great selection of stylish baby bits, so check it out the next time you're looking for a baby gift. And, thepatacakebaby hails from Idaho to boot! A sure sign of creative genious.)

***Jamie from thepatacakebaby is graciously extending a 15% discount to D&L readers. To take advantage of this, you can order directly from the website (not valid for the Etsy store), and use the promo code "GRAND" when checking out. Happy shopping!***

I am adding my Etsy purchase to my list of Highly Anticipated Arrivals, hoping that it beats The Anticipated Arrival (I have a feeling it's going to be close). I love that these bags are functional, gorgeous, and hand-made by creative individuals... much like yourselves. Even if our cloth diapering experience is messy, it will at least be messy with style.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where in the World: Anchorage Alaska

Michelle took a picture of herself and her D&L coffee sleeve on a recent trip to Anchorage Alaska. It's such a cozy image seeing her with a warm cup of coffee and the mountains behind. Thanks for sharing Michelle!



We want to see where you've taken your reusable coffee sleeve. Please send your submissions to DotandLineHome@gmail.com!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Knitting Excursion – Part 2

So, last time I told you all about my incredibly exciting trip to the Hobby Lobby, wherein I waded through the puzzling assortment of knitting books, yarns, and needles in an effort to begin a project and satisfy a creative urge. When I finally got my booty home I was impatient to begin the actual knitting, so I read through the instructions as quickly as possible. Casting on blah blah blah, garter stitch yadda yadda yadda, changing colors et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…ah, screw it, I’m ready to start. So, I cast on the prescribed 60 stitches. That part was not so bad. See, look:


Good for me! Now, on to the knitting. Other than a little bit of trouble keeping the thread taut and the stitches moderately even, this part was not so bad, either. Yay! After a while I even started to get the hang of it and it became the rhythmical, undaunting task I had hoped it would be. I leaned back and proceeded to knit while enjoying Rick Steve’s Europe. However, I soon found that it was easy to lose track of how many rows I’d done, and when I tried to simply count them I became confused: does the row I cast on count? What’s this business about ridges? How are they different from rows? And then, most puzzling of all (and something that, despite a bit of lazy googling, I still have not found the solution to) why is the last stitch on each row so loose? When I take up the slack from it it’s almost like the last stitch of the previous row becomes the first stitch of the next row. Which is all well and good when I’ve only got one color, but when I switch between colors it looks like I have one stitch of yellow on my blue row, and vice versa. Any experienced knitters out there with the answer to this question are welcome to chime in.

Due to my confusion and misunderstanding of the meaning of ridges and rows, I switched colors too early and had to go back and undo a full row. Somehow I managed to do this without dropping a stitch, and all was well…until…you know, I blame Mario Batali and the infernally intriguing show “Spain…on the Road Again” because I was so distracted by tapas that I dropped a stitch. And the section of my book entitled “What to Do When You Drop a Stitch” instructed me to get out my crochet hook – a tool I had deemed unnecessary when shopping at the Hobby lobby, and thus did not now have in my arsenal. I did my darnedest to pick up that stitch with my needles, but ended up instead dropping another one. And then another. And another. And finally I just got so frustrated and furious that I pulled the whole mess off my needle.


And then I started over. Admittedly, much of my initial zeal had then worn off, as the above pictured inch of knitting was two days’ worth of work, and I had come to the realization that, while soothing and enjoyable, knitting was not going to be nearly as productive as I’d hoped. At this rate I’d be lucky to churn out one placemat a year, and I could just forget entirely the idea of ever making a sweater. Nevertheless, I plodded on (this time with the yellow yarn, for a change of pace), the therapeutic benefits (which did seem to outweigh the frustration) being sufficient enough reason for me to persevere.

But, as I progressed on Attempt #2, I noticed something disturbing: according to my book, this placemat was supposed to measure 12” by 16”. I was a long way from determining what the final length would be, but it had by now become clear that my placemat was nowhere near 12 inches wide. In fact, to call it 8 inches would be rather generous. There was no way on earth a normal-sized dinner plate would ever rest on this mat. Well, see for yourself. Here’s a dinner plate:


And now a salad plate:


And now a tea cup saucer:


How on earth did it turn out so small?! I was following the directions to the letter! Except…uh oh…guess I should have held out for those size 8 needles after all. Shoot.

Well, I plan to finish my “placemat” someday. Just as soon as I think of a use for such a miniature piece of rectangular knitted fabric. I thought about making it a potholder, but it’s really not thick enough for that. Is there such a thing as a knitted handkerchief?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holiday Cheer & Free Shipping

Normally I wait until after Thanksgiving to get really excited for Christmas. This year however, my attempts to wait until Thanksgiving to start celebrating and preparing for Christmas have been to no avail. I cannot hold it in any longer. This is how excited I am:
(Disclaimer: brace yourself for the most undignified form of excitement EVER):

To spread even more holiday cheer, D&L is now offering free shipping on all coffee sleeves purchased now through December 31!

All we ask in return is that you spread some holiday cheer yourself and write to tell us all about it. Who knows, your story may even end up right here on our blog.

To view our full line of reusable coffee sleeves, please click here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

See Kate Conquer: An Eating Dilemma

As this pregnancy races [waddles] to the finish line Baby Spice gets bigger and bigger, my stomach gets squished more and more, and I can eat less and less. This, my friends, is so very weird for me. I LOVE to eat. I love to cook, but I LOVE to eat. Eating brings people together, it expresses culture and tradition, it's just oh-so-blissful. So, what am I supposed to do over the next month or so until my womb is vacated and my stomach can operate at an appropriate capacity?

My motto is, “Make Every Bit Count!” I try to make each meal pack as much nutritional punch as possible, while not sacrificing taste or experience (because oh! How I LOVE to experience my food).

Here's a couple of my favorites that have been getting me through the Days of Little Hunger:

For an easy, protein-packed breakfast, I mix plain yogurt with pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds, topping it off with maple syrup. Don't be shy on the pumpkin seeds – I use ¼ cup – and to de-seed a pomegranate without spraying your kitchen in red, try filling a large bowl with water and de-seed under the surface.

Make some veggie broth (simply by simmering some veggie scraps or whatever vegetables you have lying around) and use for a multitude of soups. My current favorite satisfies my craving for Lipton Extra Noodle Soup in a box and is definitely healthier: bring broth to a boil, add some crushed noodles (egg noodles or spaghetti or...). When noodles are done stir in a beaten egg and some frozen veggies, season however you want (chili flakes, bouillon, S&P, etc...)

Chili! Everyone has a version, here's my simple one: saute an obscene amount of onions and garlic (last time I used five large yellow onions and a whole head of the strong stuff), add cooked ground beef and kidney beans and some crushed tomatoes. I like to throw in some frozen corn and spinach for a little more variety. Season with cumin seeds and chipotle, and of course salt and pepper. While the initial prep takes a little bit of time, I big pot will last through many meals.

My big pot o' chili: serves a large crowd once, or me many, many times

Each of these meals is super easy, and is fairly nutritionally solid which not only fuels my body as I grow a human but also gets me more bang for my buck even if I'm only able to eat small portions.

So, how about you – got any easy, tasty, healthy meals you rely on in special situations?