Friday, October 30, 2009

A Halloween Treat

This is one of those rare Fridays in which I will be sidestepping my usual DIY project or Green Tip to share something of a less professional nature. During my early childhood years my dad worked for a local television station. As a result my sister and I ended up in a few commercials. This one was shot when I was about 7 years old and seems strangely fitting for Halloween. I am the one in the blue dress with white horizontal stripes. I can also be seen donning a red outfit. Oh the 80's. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Favorite Things: Bloom

I am back from my beautiful trip to Iowa and St. Louis and will definitely be sharing more details on that later. In the mean time I wanted to share pictures of Bloom, one of my favorite little shops on HWY1 between Iowa City and Kalona, IA. Walking through this little shop (and it's next door neighbor, Sister's Garden) got the creative juices flowing and it's easy to see why.

Festoon lighting, old branches and crystal! I am inspired to create something like this for my home or studio just so I can stare in awe.

I love the bold reuse of the old china and the lack of fear used to plaster them to the wall:

And the lovely bath products so artfully displayed in their beautiful bottles and what a fantastic piece of furniture!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Annie & the Arch

This weekend Annie (yes, our Annie!) and her sister Jessica came to visit me in St. Louis. I was thrilled to see them, and happy to oblige Jess’s one request: that we visit the Arch.

Having not been to the Arch myself since high school I had forgotten enough about the experience to make another visit worthwhile. And when I invited my brother to accompany us I was shocked to discover that, despite having been born and raised in St. Louis, he has never been to the Arch! Apparently, he skipped that field trip in high school, and has never had the impetus to go as an adult. So when Annie & Jess rolled into town Sunday afternoon, we picked up Buddy and headed for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka, The Arch).

[Warning: derail imminent!] Though I know this is an artistic blog and not a political one, I do think it would be irresponsible of me to post about the Arch without at least mentioning that I’m not 100% supportive of the philosophical ideation it represents. I’m not a huge fan (understatement) of Manifest Destiny, or any other ideology that promotes the subjugation of cultures or claims that the USA is somehow inherently superior to other nations. So the fact that the Gateway Arch is a monument that was erected with the express purpose of celebrating “Westward Expansion” and is thus not entirely ethically-neutral is not lost on me. However, rather than deny the aesthetic beauty of the Jefferson Nation Expansion Memorial and refuse to visit, I prefer to increase awareness of the one-sided representation of history, so that hopefully one day soon the museum at the base of the Arch will display fewer fawning descriptions of Lewis & Clark’s journey, and more accurate information about the indigenous cultures destroyed as a result of Westward Expansion. [Derail ends here. You may now rejoin your artistic blog post, already in progress…]

We approached the Arch from the north, and enjoyed the particularly beautiful autumn day, and the lovely sight of leaves drifting lazily to the ground in the park. Jess decided to take a picture of herself, attempting to get the Arch in the background. She succeeded phenomenally!

We went inside and immediately got tickets to go to the top. The tram ride up was the least fun part of the trip, as it seems all of us are, at minimum, mildly claustrophobic, and the pictures of the trams’ interiors online truly fail to communicate just how tiny they are, especially when four adults are crammed inside. Annie had the brilliant idea of taking a picture of our knees, all scrunched together at the center of the car.

We chose a rather cloudy day for our visit, so the view was not particularly breathtaking. I know I had a picture of downtown STL as seen from the top of the Arch, but apparently I forgot to load it from Annie’s camera (perhaps she can add it later when she returns home from her road-trip?) True to form, however, I managed not to let the Cardinals-related picture slip through the cracks, so here is a glorious aerial view of the new Busch Stadium.

[All comments referencing our performance in this year’s playoffs or espousing a pro-Cubs view will be deleted and users will be banned from the site. Just kidding! …sort of]

After returning safely to the ground we wandered the museum for a while, marveling at the extreme 80’s-ness of the animatronics, the walls plastered in photos of the wilderness of Idaho and Montana, and the random 18th century paraphernalia that sat in glass boxes hung on the walls without any plaques or identifying texts. Yes, the Museum of Westward Expansion could do with a makeover for more than one reason. Though, as Annie was generous to point out, the lighting was rather well done.

So, while the Arch experience was not exactly new for me, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to share it with Annie, Jessica, and my brother. It’s funny, when I first considered topics for this series I saw myself adventuring solo most of the time, but I have been blessed with friends and family and have so far had the joy of sharing my experiences with loved ones. But perhaps next week I’ll set out on my own? We’ll see…

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Artist Profile: Jessie Collins of 2gorditas

I am pleased to introduce to you Jessie Collins of 2gorditas. Her treats are no doubt tasty and have plenty of artistic flair. While her work is geared more toward El Dia De Los Muertos, they would also make a fun Halloween treat. Enjoy!

1. Where is your business based out of?

I am located on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada & at my sister's house in Tsawwassen, British Columbia

2. Where are you from originally?

I was born in White Rock, but have lived in: Ottawa in Ontario, Montreal in Quebec, Edmonton in Alberta, Bathurst in New Brunswick, All over British Columbia and have spent a lot of time in Baja, Mexico.

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

About a year

4. Where do you get your creative inspiration?

Mexican art & cuisine

5. What does your creative process entail?

looking at pictures to get inspirations and color combinations. Hours looking on-line at chocolate molds and thinking how to make them special and different!

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

I find where I've traveled to influences me more! I'm very fortunate to live on the beach, but find it can be distracting when trying to work, especially on sunny days.

7. Who are your creative mentors?

Definitely my sister, Jane of Janebonbon

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

That would definitely be my first craft show! I had people coming up to me and saying "you're 2gorditas!" They had seen my work on Etsy and knew I was in a local craft show. It was very inspiring!!

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

I enjoy walking on the beach collecting sea shells and beach glass. One day I'll find a use for the thousands of shells and many pounds of tiny sea glass, but for now I have a sea shell garden!

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully working less at my real job, making lots of chocolates, still walking on the beach, but being able to do it more often!

Monday, October 26, 2009

See Kate Conquer: With a Little Help from Our Friends, Pt. 2

If you'll remember from last week, Keith and I – with a lot of help from our amazing friends Nikola and Marija – were in the middle of covering our crappy linoleum floors with laminate flooring. Admittedly, my involvement in redoing our floors was more concentrated on the front end of the project, the “Ideas Phase”, if you will. My dear husband and Nikola took care of the rest, while Marija and I sat back, drank tea, and made a bad-ass pot of goulash and some Serbian plum buns (a whole other post, I'm pretty sure). This is not to say that my part of mentioning the idea, choosing the color (walnut – not too light, not too dark), and helping Keith take floor measurements were not instrumental to the process. It's just that, had we stopped there, no one would even be able to tell what we started.

However, Keith and Nikola are go-getters, takers of action, men of passion! After we got back to our apartment with our laminate panels, foam padding, and an arsenal of tools, Nikola suggested they get started even though he and Marija had only an hour before they had to be somewhere that wasn't Our Apartment. Marija and I cleaned in the kitchen while the guys tackled the bedroom.

Keith was feeling pretty excited after Nikola left so he ahead and finished up the bedroom, save for a few tricky edging pieces that required Nikola's adept hand at the saw. I was amazed, to say the least! How could it be that we had woken up to a floor that made me feel like I needed to shower before making the nine-step journey to my coffee, and yet I was going to bed feeling like we had come home and HGTV had flipped our house while we were out? This, my friends, is an incredible feeling.

The next day, Keith and I cleared the living room so the guys could actually do some work. I emptied the bookshelf and put the “general mess” away; Keith took furniture into the stairwell and shoved things to the kitchen end of the room. Keith got a jump start before Nikola arrived, and by the time I left to join Marija at her place for some tea and cooking, they had finished a third of the room already. I left for Marija's with visions of returning to grandeur later in the day.

Slight tangent: As I've mentioned, two of my favorite things are cooking and eating. One thing that is so great about moving to a new country is meeting people from all over the world. I've been able to coerce a bunch of these new friends into teaching me how to cook their native foods. So, getting to learn first-hand from Marija how she makes goulash and plum buns was like the cream cheese icing on the laminate flooring cake.

Several hours later, just as we were really, really starving, Nikola and Keith showed up, their part of the project complete. We celebrated with our fabulous meal, and then Keith and I headed home to admire their handiwork.

I was amazed. Within the span of about twelve hours over two days, we had gone to the store, purchased our new flooring, and got it into place with relative ease. I kept asking myself why it took us a year to do such a simple yet dramatic face lift in our apartment.

For people like me – people with good ideas but who perhaps lack just a little bit of follow-through from time to time – at least part of the answer seems to be allow yourself to be inspired and helped by those around you. In some ways this requires vulnerability to say, Hey! I don't know what I'm doing over here! For Nikola and Marija, and my friend Jess that I mentioned last week, this lets them do something that they're really good at and enjoy. It seems pretty win-win. The flip side is that there are things that Keith and I are really good at, things that it's super easy for us to help others with, things that don't come as naturally to them. But that's for another day.

We are just finishing up some furniture rearrangement and still hope to get pictures on the walls (...someday...). For now, though, we are reveling in our “new” apartment, and letting the inspiration carry over into other minor projects with big impact. Stay tuned!

How about you? Have you tackled any home or craft projects that inspired you in other areas of creativity? I'd love to read about it in the comments section.

Friday, October 23, 2009

DIY: Envelopes

This week's DIY project is also green in it's use of materials. For a while now I have enjoyed making my own envelopes. My favorite paper to use are old maps and magazines. You will need a template (I bought the one seen here but you can also take an existing envelope and disassemble it), a bone folder or popsicle stick, glue stick or double sided tape, and your paper of choice.

Start by tracing the shape of your template on your paper & cut.

Next use your bone folder or popsicle stick to fold down the flaps of the the envelope and secure with glue stick or double sided tape.

This next step is optional. I like to take this double sided tack film found at your local craft store and make labels. I bought some labels and used them as templates to make more handmade labels. Once you have traced your labels onto your paper, follow the directions on your double sided film. Trim down your labels and use as needed on your handmade envelopes.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Before and After: Island to Storage

A while back my parents gave me this old (and moldy…ewww) kitchen island.

A little paint, fabric and decopauge and voila! I love the extra storage and surface in my studio. It's much needed and for around $10 in supplies it is now clean, chic and updated.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Mom’s Roast

In order to reward ourselves for a job well done (or, done, anyway) painting the house, my brother, my cousin and I planned a full weekend that would revolve around watching the first season of Fringe on blu-ray, and cooking (& eating) a delicious meal of mashed potatoes, peas & corn, and our Mom’s amazing roast beef. Trouble was, I’d never tried to make Mom’s roast before, and it pretty much goes without saying that Buddy had never tried, either. He doesn’t even own a measuring cup, much less a crock pot.

So, I was tasked with 1) retrieving the recipe from Mom, 2) purchasing the ingredients, 3) packing up my entire kitchen and transporting it to Buddy’s house, and 4) spearheading the cooking offensive. Unfortunately, none of those tasks were as easy as they sound.

1) Like any natural cook, Mom didn’t exactly have a recipe to give me. Oh, she knew what ingredients she uses (except for the main one, that is: Mom confessed that despite the fact that she’s been making this roast for over 25 years, she can never remember what type of meat to buy and always has to ask the butcher; that’s my mama) but she had no idea what to tell me with regard to the amounts. In the end, my approximation of the recipe looked like this:

  • the kind of roast that falls apart when you poke it – stringy
  • ¼ c. cup lemon juice, ¾ c. worcestershire sauce, ¼ c. soy sauce, lemon pepper & garlic salt

2) At the grocery store on Saturday morning I wandered bewildered in the meat department before getting up the guts to ask the butcher, and then I realized I had no idea how much meat to ask for. So I whipped out the cell phone and called Mom again. 4-5 pounds, apparently. Ok. So I went up to the counter and, feeling like a total buffoon, asked, “I’m looking for the kind of beef roast that falls apart when you poke it…” Turns out, it’s a chuck roast. They cut a five-pounder especially for me.

3) Saturday morning was truly a flurry of phone calls and text messages. Turns out, Buddy does not own: a potato peeler, a large pot for cooking potatoes, a colander, a mixer, a measuring cup (?!), a cutting board, large sharp knives, or a crock pot. I don’t like to play into gender stereotypes, but at times I do feel that the “Bachelor” archetype fits my brother so well it’s eerie. Anyway, thank goodness for my stockpile of canvas bags – I used nearly all of them packing up the necessary dishes, tools, and spices.

4) The cooking effort turned out to be a little more difficult than predicted. We thought, “It’s a roast, right? Set it and forget it!” But it turns out, if you set it too low, and you try to gauge the done-ness of a five pound roast by looking at only the outermost inch, you’re going to end up with a very raw hunk of meat three hours later. And then your potatoes will be ready and your bellies will be empty, but your roast will need another 1.5 hours in the crock pot – this time on high.

So, yeah, I guess it didn’t turn out quite as well as we’d hoped. We cut it into smaller chunks to make it easier to monitor, but cooking it on high made it a lot tougher than Mom’s roast is supposed to be. I mean, it was still really good, and Jeff (who made a face when I poured the soy sauce in the crock pot) thought it was great, but Buddy and I were a little disappointed.

Lesson learned: 25 years of cooking experience counts for something. Even if you can’t remember the relevant butcher-terminology. Don’t expect to be able to duplicate Mom’s Anything on the first time out. And don’t let a failure stop you from trying again. I hope to get Roast: Round 2 on the calendar with Buddy & Jeff soon, in order to make sure it happens before I leave for New York. Cross your fingers for a happy follow up to this roast post…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Huge Sale On Now!

Happy Tuesday everyone! I am headed to the midwest this week to visit friends and attend a wedding.

I leave you all with a sale. Check our website or click the pictures below to view lampshade and coffee sleeve options.

Monday, October 19, 2009

With A Little Help From Our Friends (Part I)

Do you ever over think things just a little too much so that you never actually act on your original intentions, but in the end you've spent more energy thinking than you would have had you just acted quickly in the first place?

Welcome to my life, especially anything that falls under “home décor & improvements”. As I mentioned last week, I live in quite a tiny apartment that Keith and I moved into just over a year ago. Since the day we moved in we have gone back and forth on whether to move to any other apartment that isn't this one (a first-hand lease in this city is about as elusive as the Fountain of Youth), or to invest in this one despite its limitations (student housing, built in the Sixties, walls of concrete and floors of dirty, grimy, revolting linoleum) and claim it as “ours”. For ten months we did next to nothing except think about these two choices from time to time when we got frustrated with being here, and then stopped thinking when that, too, made us frustrated. Not so productive.

In August, our dear friend Jess - who just happens to be an artistic genius and loves to redecorate - came to visit. I had told her beforehand that I wouldn't mind just a little help in our place, and she wasted no time. Jess has way more of the “just do it” cards in her deck then I could ever dream of having, and she willingly shared her hand with me. She whisked through IKEA, picking out this and that (a rug, the decals you saw in last week's kitchen photos, a new lamp), things she knew would brighten things up a bit. Her instincts were right, and when she left we had a great start on our apartment.

A couple months had gone by, and we had become complacent in advancing the great Decorating Initiative. We were traveling, there were other projects (like Operation Get Ready for Baby!), and our priorities shifted. But then, I started nesting, and the nesting led to thinking, and thinking led to that familiar frustration. A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with my friend Clara who had just moved into a new place with her husband and gorgeous baby. She mentioned how they had redone the floors in the bedrooms with laminate flooring to match the living room. My impression of laminate flooring had always been that it's the modern ugly step-sister of that terrible wood paneling everyone crucified their kitchens with in the Seventies. But, Clara's place looked pretty nice to me, and I was shocked that she and her husband had done it themselves! It's easy, she assured me, it just snaps together, you trim it to fit your nooks and crannies, and voilà! I mentioned this to some other friends of ours, Nikola and Marija, who are total DIY junkies. Nikola, an architect, redesigned their entire apartment, and together they knocked down walls, refinished hardwood floors, and transformed an average apartment into an artistic masterpiece.

Last week Marija told me that Saturday was the day to get our laminate flooring. Keith and I looked at each other and knew it was now or never, so we'd better go for it. In a matter of hours, we'd visited two Home Depot-like stores, selected our laminate (at about 7$/sq. meter) and trim, and were back at our place. Were it just us, the laminate would have sat in our apartment for weeks, maybe even months, waiting for us to spring into action on a task that just continued to feel a bit overwhelming. (See? We would have been thinking again!) Fortunately, our friends had alternative plans for us and our really crappy, junky, old, perpetually dirty linoleum floors.

Come back next Monday to see how laminate flooring – and great friends – dramatically changed the feel of our apartment and the way I think about “projects”.

Friday, October 16, 2009

DIY Friday turned WIY Friday

Happy Friday! This has been one busy week that's for sure. I tried my best to find time this week to blog about a fun DIY idea I have but alas I have had no time to put it together, which is a shame as it's been a lovely idea in my head for quite a while now. Instead, my friend Nikki brought this lovely old movie to my attention and even did a little writeup about it. Your DIY project has officially turned WIY (Watch It Yourself). Please stop back by and let us know what you think!

Cary Grant & Sophia Loren
Director: Melville Shavelson

When Tom Winters (Grant) learns that his ex-wife has died, he is forced out of his perfect life in D.C. as a government attorney and is left with three kids (In my opinion they were little brats) who want nothing to do with him. While at a concert at Watergate, the youngest son, Robert runs away only to be found by Cinzia Zaccardi (Loren), the daughter of the famous Italian conductor of the a fore mentioned concert.

Cinzia has also run away in search of adventure in America when she and "Roberto" happen to meet by chance on a rowboat. From here a chain of bad luck leaves the family & Cinzia living on a run down houseboat, forcing them all to make nice.

The fabulous writing and cheeky chemistry between Grant & Loren are sure to please. If you like cutesy chick-flicks with classic charm, this one is for you!

Tom's apartment is in Washington, D.C., but when he's shown driving his kids to the concert at the Watergate, he approaches the area from the Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge, the opposite direction from which he would naturally have been traveling from the city.

Original screenplay was written by Betsy Drake, Cary Grant's wife. Grant originally wanted it to star her but his extra-marital affair with Sophia Loren complicated the project. Drake's script was drastically re-written by two other writers to accommodate Loren and bears little resemblance to Drake's initial concept.

Cary Grant initially accepted his role in Houseboat (1958) primarily because he was seeing Sophia Loren at the time. After she married another man during the filming of the project, Grant was heartbroken and tried to back out but was unable to get out of his contract. Fortunately for us, Melville Shavelson was able to direct a seamless production.

Who was the man responsible for stealing Loren away from Grant? It was none other thanCarlo Ponti who obtained a Mexican divorce from his first wife and married Sophia Loren by proxy, while she was in Hollywood, filming this 1958 classic.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Painting Palooza

Two weeks ago my baby brother closed on his first home. I’ve been glowing with sisterly pride ever since. On the evening of the day the papers were signed he took me over to see it. “It’s perfect!” I told him. “It’s charming. It’s adorable. It’s got character. And it…needs some paint.” Like, seriously, the insides of this house were screaming for a little latex-based love. “I know,” he said. “Wanna help me paint it this weekend?”

Now, my brother (whom I’ll refer to from now on by the nickname he acquired as an infant, “Buddy,” thanks to the My Buddy doll*) and I had discussed the subject of painting his house on prior occasions. At that time, however, we thought that the house’s previous owner had already purchased paint for the walls, all of it white. And though I tried to talk Buddy into the concept of having an “accent wall” he was staunchly against it. “Dude, the paint’s already been bought,” he’d say. “But Buddy, you own a house now! You can paint the walls any color you want!” “Yeah. And I wanna paint them white.” … Touché.

However, when it turned out there had been a miscommunication and the previous owner had not, in fact, purchased paint, Buddy was suddenly much more amenable to the idea of a color scheme. And when he asked me to help him choose paint colors I did the Dance of Joy, much to his amusement. Finally, my years of avid HGTV watching would pay off! Truth be told, though, Buddy is primarily responsible for the selection of shades that happened later that evening at the Home Depot. He decided that he wanted one wall in each room to be painted a deep green, and from there I suggested the other walls be done in a complementary beige/tan color, and all molding, doors, and trim in white. However, finding these colors turned out to be something of a challenge. Take one look at this picture and tell me it’s not intimidating to someone who’s been a homeowner for all of four hours.

And once we found the right shades, we had to decide what “sheen” each shade should be. And what kind of base do you need to make each shade? And how many gallons of each color should we buy? All in all, our first trip to the Home Depot (and there would be many more) lasted over 90 minutes, and we had to have our older brother on the phone googling things for us the entire time. And I should clarify that we basically chose the brand out of a hat. We had no prior knowledge of Glidden – in fact, I think we picked it because they had the FEWEST color chips on display of all the brands at Home Depot, and we were so overwhelmed by selecting shade and sheen and base and quantity that we couldn’t be bothered to compare all these among several brands.

As we wheeled our cart towards the check-out aisle, my brother asked me, in all seriousness, “Do you think we can paint the whole house in one day?” Ha! “No, sorry, Buddy, it’s going to take at least two.” Ha ha!!! Had we but known.

So, paint, trays, rollers, brushes, step ladder, tarp, and caffeinated beverages in hand, we arrived at the house around noon the next day, joined by our cousin, Jeff. We set up an old boombox which we fed a constant stream of comedy and classic rock cds, and began to paint. Now, you can pretty much garner the basics of interior painting by watching any episode of Trading Spaces. Rather than bore you with Painting 101, I’m going to list a few things they don’t spell out on television:

● Windows take a long time to paint. Not only is there the interior molding, there’s the wood frame of the window itself, and you have to be sure not to get paint on the glass, or the chains, and you mustn’t paint the window shut…before we’d finished the first room, Buddy announced “Forget it! I’m getting new windows. These are crap anyway. Just paint the molding.” Aye aye, Captain.

● If you get the dark paint on an area that will subsequently be painted white, it’s going to take at least three coats to cover it up. Of course, since we did the trim on the dark walls last, we did not realize this til it was too late.

● Paint fumes can and will get you high. Especially if you spend too much time painting the inside of a closet or other small space with little air circulation. You will start to giggle at everything. You will not be allowed to drive on the next run to Home Depot.

● Unfortunately, this high is followed by a splitting headache that makes it so not worth it. (so don’t try it at home, kids!)

● Rinsing paint rollers by spraying them with a high powered garden hose nozzle is a BAD IDEA. The rollers will spin around at lightning speed, spraying everything within 15 feet with a fine mist of paint.

● Actually, rinsing paint rollers is pretty much pointless anyway. You’ll never get all the paint out of those suckers. Just buy a big batch of rollers and use new ones the next day.

● “Good enough” is a moving target – a bar that will be set lower and lower as the painting wears on and on. Therefore, when painting an entire house, start with the areas that will be most frequently seen by the public (the living and dining rooms, for instance) and finish with the more private quarters. Otherwise, you may end up with a corner of the dining room in which a hasty painter’s-tape-removal-job has resulted in uneven lines and latex paint peeling off the wall, and the pronouncement: “Whatever. I’ll put the plant there.”

On Wednesday night, Buddy & I finally finished the last bit of painting and pulled up the last of the painter’s tape. That’s right. Wednesday. We started on Saturday. Approximately 96 person-hours of labor went into painting a two bedroom, one bath house. We were exhausted. But we were DONE! …with the painting, that is. There was still the packing to finish, and the actual moving to do, and blinds to put up and GFCIs to install, and shelving to hang…

There have been a lot of things to smile about in the weeks since my brother became a homeowner. I have to say, though, that the best thing to come of it for me has been the opportunity to spend time with him, as well as with our cousin. When the Bill Hicks cd ran out and we were all too covered in paint to go put on a new one, we got to talking. We talked about our first cars and our favorite Christmases, about how many times we skipped class in high school (stay in school, kids!), our first loves, our worst loves, and a host of other topics from the mundane to the spiritual to the spiritually mundane (I learned that my uncle has a tattoo of Jesus. I kid you not). See, my cousin Jeff did not grow up in St. Louis – he moved here a year ago and it’s only in the past few months that we’ve started to hang out. And my brother and I were separated for many of our formative years owing to our parents’ divorce. So we had plenty of stories to share, years of catching up to do, and as we gave a fresh shine to my brother’s home we gave new life to our relationships with each other. So, perhaps the greatest accomplishment of this painting adventure was not a house bathed in Glidden or even newly acquired knowledge of paint formulas and fumes, but a home christened with laughter and friendships constructed on a foundation of family.

*Names have been obscured/changed to protect the innocent from the searching eyes of Google in case I say something really stupid.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Artist Profile: Darlene Lowe of Amazing Grace Designs

Meet Darlene Lowe of Amazing Grace Designs. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and one of the ways we are supporting the cause is by supporting creatives like Darlene who care enough to make a difference. Darlene makes and sells her orriginal "Grace Relief Pillow", which designed to help women who suffer from breast cancer. I hope you enjoy reading about her as much as I enjoyed coming across her.

1. Where is your business based out of?

I live in a small town called Mount Gilead in North Carolina. I do all of my work from my home.

2. Where are you from originally?

I was born in Deleware, but my father was in the Army and we traveled all over the world. I spent most of my time in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

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

I have been doing interior decorating for quite some time now, but I only progressed into being a business owner in the past couple of months.

4. What inspired this product that is geared toward helping breast cancer patients/ survivors?

It actually started when a friend from church was diagnosed with breast cancer. I really felt that the Lord was leading me to this idea of a pillow to assist with the pain and discomfort that comes from the many procedures such as lymph node removal and masectomies.
My mother and my aunt also had a long battle with breast cancer, and I witnessed in both accounts the pain that they both had to endure. I watched both of them use small pillows constantly to help relieve some of that discomfort, and now I just want to bring some of that relief to other women as well.

5. Where do you get your creative inspiration?

I spend a lot of time praying, and seeking after the Lord to give me ideas. I also think about my mother and the times we had together and how special they were. My three girls and my grandchildren also give me inspiration, as well as the love of my husband.

6. What does your creative process entail?

First, I go through all of my fabrics and pick and choose colors and patterns that I feel coordinate the best. Second, I usually cut out and pin about a dozen or so pillows together at a time. Then its down to sewing and stuffing all of them. That takes the most time so I finish about three pillows each day.

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

I really believe that where I live has a very large influence on my art. I live out in the country, surrounded by trees, flowers and even a stream. As you can imagine, this gives me a very peaceful working enviroment!

8. Who are your creative mentors?

My mother and my grandmother were really the ones to pass on the creative gene. They both did plenty of quilting sessons and canning all sorts of different foods. I was exposed to this for so long, I think it rubbed off on me, just in a different form.
My mother-in-law was also very creative. She really dabbled in all sorts of artistic mediums and was very encouraging for me to do the same.

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

The creation of the Grace Relief Pillow is the one that has definitely given me the most joy. Its my first project that has such profound meaning behind it. It's a way to give back.

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

My days are filled with wonderful things starting off with reading my Bible. I try to see my three grandbabies as much as possible. I really enjoy the time that I get to spend wih them! I also really like helping out at church. I try to make meals for people within our congregation that may be sick, have had a baby or ones that are just having a hard time. In a nut shell, I just really like to help people.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years, I hope to have an entire household of grandchildren! I also want to be able, in ten years, to go with my husband on many more mission trips-Sudan, India and Jerusalem. And in ten years, I hope that The Grace Relief Pillow has helped many, many women who are suffering. But maybe by then a cure will be found and my pillow won't be needed anymore.

Monday, October 12, 2009

See Kate Conquor: Quinoa, Kackerlackor & Cabinets: Reducing the Chaos

One year ago, my husband and I moved across the world from Boston, Massachusetts to Gothenburg, Sweden. Among the vast cultural differences we encountered, we had to make the huge adjustment of going from a ginormous (to us) four-bedroom condo to a 400 sq. ft. student apartment with such a lack of amenities that I was left proclaiming that we had just moved – supposedly by choice – to prison.

When we first arrived in Sweden we came with five suitcases, and nothing to fill our cabinets except my left-handed kitchen scissors. A year later, I've scoured charity shops, collected enough platters and dishes to serve American Thanksgiving, and started a collection of large yogurt containers simply because we eat so much of the stuff that I feel wasteful throwing out all that plastic. Perhaps most notably for today's purposes, I am a self-professed sauce- and spice-whore. I've tried to come up with a more polite term, but there isn't any. I am what I am. They should probably have a group in a church basement somewhere where I can go every Tuesday and say, “My name is Kate, and I'm a spice-whore.”

In addition to a vast array of spices, we've also had a recent infestation of kackerlackors. In case you were confused, as I was, “kackerlackor” is the cute Swedish word for “cockroach”. While the critters look less threatening than their American counterparts, the creepy factor remains the same. The presence of these horrific things has 1) introduced the need to clear out some space for those sticky death traps and 2) made me not want to have things so cluttered that I couldn't see if an adorable kackerlackor was hiding behind that bottle of Japanese rice vinegar.

A little clean-out and reorganization was in order for my critter-harboring, spice-propagating cabinets. Our place is just too small to have things be chaotic, even if that chaos is behind closed doors. My spice addiction has meant that the spice shelves were the most out-of-control, taking up more space than necessary, and, consequently, the least accessible in terms of knowing what I had and where it was. I've accumulated quite a number of spices in bulk, some of which I'd transferred into empty spice bottles. These, however, were not clearly marked, and were essentially an International Ethnic Cuisine Incident waiting to happen. Say, for instance, I sprinkled Chinese five-spice powder instead of cinnamon over my morning oatmeal. The only feasible result is BLECH, and it would happen all over my kitchen floor. My solution for the spices was to relocate them to a drawer all their own, which also needed to be cleaned out.

I took to IKEA like white on rice and found myself some brilliant spice drawer organizers. This opened up 1 ½ shelves on which to arrange my new pots (previously, they'd juggled for space on the stove). Even just going through my shelves to see what was hiding was helpful, and I get a cheap thrill each time I've been able to use up something that had been wearing out its welcome.

I am quite pleased with my end results. I clearly labeled [in orange] the bulk spices that I had repackaged into normal-sized jars, and the new spice drawer is almost organized in alphabetical order. My pots each fit nicely with their own lids nearby. I've got a baking shelf, and the top shelves are for items that I don't use often, such as corn syrup and egg noodles. My grains and legumes – quinoa, garbanzos and polenta to name a few – are on the bottom shelf, right at eye level. This is a handy visual reminder to utilize these items and eat more healthily.

In at least one of my dream worlds my kitchen would be my primary workplace. It would be a place where I spent hours a day utilizing every piece of gourmet equipment known to man and finding inspiration in surprising flavor combinations from around the world.

That's not quite what my life is right now. What it is is busy and multi-faceted, with lots of changes all the time. While I can't control all the circumstances that make life a bit chaotic here and there, I am finding that having even this one small area of my apartment be accessible and organized is enough to spread a little bit of peace into the rest of my life. This, I like.

How about you? Got any parts of your home of which you are particularly proud?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Friday: Green Tip: Winterize

Everyone always says that there are a lot of unseen expenses in home ownership. While The Hubs and I are definitely new at owning a home, we have already learned this lesson. In looking for creative ways to save money we are constantly battling immediate gratification versus long term savings. A good example of this was our recent need for a new washing machine. Ideally we were searching for an eco friendly, energy efficient, front loading washer. Unfortunately, these machines can be considerably more money up front. In the end we decided to spring for the more energy efficient option and save on our monthly bills. This purchase got me thinking about other ways to cut back on our energy bills.

It's no surprise that winter is quickly on the way. We have a beautiful old house but with this comes the challenge of keeping it warm and and energy efficient. We have old windows and basically NO insulation in our attic. Both of these issues are problematic. For only a few dollars we will be able to cover our windows in plastic to keep out some of the cold. This isn't the prettiest solution but it will cut down on energy costs and buy us some time before we eventually invest in some new double paned windows.

The lack of insulation in our attic requires a more costly solution since there is basically NO insulation up there already. Eek! Fortunately for us we have a friend who use to be a sales rep for a newspaper based eco friendly & fire retardant insulation. We are even getting his help blowing it into our attic. This is a more costly problem but fortunately our friend knows all about installation and is willing to help us do it ourselves.

The last thing we will be investing in to cut down on our energy bills is a timed thermostat that will produce heat only when we need it the most.

For more energy saving ideas, please see this article by

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Save The Boobies!

If you haven't personally been affected by breast cancer, chances are you know someone who has. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there are many ways to support this worthy cause. In another week or so we will be launching our "Save The Boobies" Coffee Sleeve campaign during which a portion of all sales will go toward fighting breast cancer. Until then I thought I would highlight products of fellow artists who are doing their part to make a difference.

Look at this lovely coin purse from Pere Custom Handbags

A reusable sandwich bag from Bells and Unicorns:

This lovely necklace from EmptyNestEgg:

This candle from Dave'sHomemade:

This pink buttons bracelet by C and J Jewelry:

A portion of all sales of these items will go towards fighting breast cancer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Meet Val

My name is Val and I’ll be filling in the Wednesday slot here at Dot&Line.

When Annie asked me for ideas and suggestions about how to revamp her blog I offered one:

“I had this crazy notion that maybe you could have an "adventures in the handmade movement" series, where your less arts-abled friends go out and try their hand at different projects. Of course, this stems from my own desire to try a bunch of different crafts and my knowledge that 90% of my endeavors will end up total crap. But I think it would be both funny and informative to readers, as it could highlight the difficulties of knitting or sewing or painting or whatnot… anyway, the gist of this idea is that people unfamiliar with a given art venture into it and share with your readers the pains and the joys of their experience.”

Annie’s response was, “Great! You should do that!”

Whoa! Hang on a minute. While I admittedly volunteered to be a contributor, I didn’t mean to be THE contributor! I told Annie I was afraid it would get boring if only my perspective was on offer, and just how many artistic adventures can one person have, anyway? She was not dissuaded, however, and calmed me by saying the adventures didn’t need to be strictly artistic – they could be any endeavor I undertake or any novel experience I encounter, most of which are bound to have an artistic flavor anyway, simply by virtue of who I am.

Not entirely reassured, I acquiesced. I was still thinking about how I was going to have an “adventure” every week when I met my brother for dinner a few days later. As I told him about my dilemma he laughed, and countered that I have at least a few adventures stockpiled that I could write about. For instance, there’s the time I decided to learn ninjutsu and spent a most nerve-wracking evening at a dojo acquiring bruises and humility, but very little inner peace. In the craftier vein there’s the mosaic tray I spent 3 days determinedly assembling, only to end up with a 10 pound serving tray featuring cracked cement and chalky looking tile. Or I could recount the time I decided to attend a Bikram class, much to the amusement of my brother (who promised to collect me from the ER I was bound to find myself in), and how I ended up terming the experience “death by yoga” and vowing never to return.

Lest you think I’m a complete buffoon who fails at everything she tries, I should clarify that I’ve had my share of successful adventures as well. I’ve tried my hand at Shakespeare and done rather well, I’ve navigated my way through complicated recipes and wound up with some very satisfying dishes and pastries, I’ve even auditioned for an opera and managed to get cast (though I did take a dramatic spill in the process thanks to some new shoes and an even newer laminate floor).

In all honesty, in any given venture I’m probably about as likely to do well as I am to do poorly, but I confess that this classification of success versus failure does not really interest me. Whether I remember an experience fondly typically has little to do with how I performed and more to do with what I learned. And that’s what I hope to share with you here. This weekly slot is my inspiration to keep trying new things and challenging myself creatively, artistically, spiritually, intellectually, and [oh, the terror!] physically. I’ll report back with what I’ve learned and experienced, and I’ll do my best to make it entertaining.

I’ll conclude my self-introduction with a (language-adjusted) quote from my all time favorite episode of xkcd: “You know how some people consider ‘may you have an interesting life’ to be a curse? ... [Forget]those people. Wanna have an adventure?”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Making It Together: Corn Husk Dolls

One of the beautiful benefits of making things with a group of people is the experience and expertise of others. I have never made a corn husk doll and would probably never decide to learn how to make one on my own. Fortunately my friend Jamie figured out how to make them and shared her knowledge with the rest of us.

First, you start with corn husks that have been soaked in water to make them pliable. You will need about 9 husk leaves. You may want to lay down towels to protect your work surface from water. Blot dry the corn husks.

Tie 4 husks toward the top of the skinny part of the leaves:

Flip the leaves over leaving the tied part on the "inside" of the husks. Ball up a small piece of newspaper to form the head and tie to hold in place:

Wrap a small corn husk leaf around a pipe cleaner and tie ends. Trim the remainder of the pipe cleaner:

Insert arms and ball up more newspaper to form the body. Tie to hold in place:

Add another 4 or 5 leaves to the outside of the body to form the skirt. Tie and hot glue to hold in place:

Wrap another husk around the neck and secure in back with hot glue. Glue another leaf around the waste to make a belt. Feel free to add more newspaper under the skirt to add more volume:

Add hair and embellishments as you see fit. Form arms to desired pose:

Ta da!

Monday, October 5, 2009

See Kate Conquer: Meet Kate

My name is Kate and I'll be serving as your Monday entertainment.

When Annie asked if I wanted to write a weekly guest post for Dot&Line I jumped at the chance to do a little more writing in my spare time. That, and I know that more people read Annie's blog than mine, so it meant an instant readership gain for me. Of course, here I have someone else's expectation that I will produce something on a regular basis, and I have no fear that that won't be a good motivator since the shame and grief of not meeting a deadline may be too much to handle in my delicate state.

Ah yes, my delicate state. I am seven months pregnant, and counting of course, so there's a small [huge] chance that some [all] of my posts will be vaguely [entirely] related to such matters. I will spare you the details of things such as placenta encapsulation, as that surely violates the protocol for such an exquisite design blog as Dot&Line. However, one thing that my delicate state has reminded me of is that time is of premium value these days (and even more so in my not-so-distant future), and that it will serve me well to maximize the time and energy I put into things that I'm really excited and passionate about, and minimize the time I spend grazing the web, reading trashy news, and wallowing in whatever notion is begging for thought on a particular morning. Some days I feel more like I'm surviving my life instead of actually living it. On my best days, I am not just checking things off a to-do list, but actually working to increase the quality of my day-to-day.

One thing that is true for me, whether I do it consistently or not, is that I love the idea of improving systems that are in place and devising systems where there aren't any. Would you believe, however, that I am totally not Type A, but Type B to the utmost? I'm hoping this weekly public spotlight will not only gain me fame but also increase the evidence of these new and improved systems in my actual life. And that's not just me being overly ambitious, that's killing two birds with one stone, a Type B's fantasy come true.

So, my vain assumption for this Monday column is you might actually find what I'm attempting to do in my life useful in your own. At the very least, I hope you'll enjoy being the anonymous observer and be amused by my efforts. If you have any suggestions or commentary, I hope you'll let me know that as well.

Next Monday I'm jumping in to a riveting exposé on the woes of my kitchen storage space. Brace yourselves for a wild journey covering quinoa, kackerlackor, and cabinetry.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Introducing Kate & Val

You may recall the mention of guest bloggers in yesterday's post. I cannot tell you how excited I am to utilize the fabulous writing of my good friends Kate and Valerie.

I got to know Kate when I first moved to Boston. Not only was she friendly and fun loving but she also took me under her wing and introduced me to friends that I expect to have for a lifetime. I am also fortunate enough to call her my cousin now as I was blessed to marry into her fun loving family. Needless to say I have spent a lot of time mulling over her blog, I always find myself laughing at her adventures and relating to her points of view. I am excited that she has agreed to write for D&L on a weekly basis and am confident that you will be as entertained and enlightened by her as I am. Thanks Kate!
(Kate now resides in Sweden and I urge you to read all about her fun adventures by clicking the link to her blog above.) Link
Val is our 2nd weekly writer. Val has grown to become my best friend. We met in college and our friendship is proof that opposites DO attract. Val was the one pulling me out to parties in college and I as the one pulling her to the drafting table for a long "all nighter" the night before our design projects were due. Now a days Val sends me daily e-mails full of fun creative things and gratitude. While she currently lives in St. Louis, MO, she will be transplanted to NYC in the spring! I am excited to share her humor and perspective with you as she embarks on new and creative endeavors. Thanks Val!

Stop by Monday for Kate's introductory post and stay tuned next week as we implement our new blog schedule.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Blog Redo

October is finally here and after months of planning so is our blog revamp! Having finally come to the realization that it would be nearly impossible for me to post on a regular basis, I decided to organize and utilize the help of 2 other very talented creatives. This means that you can stop by for new blog posts practically every day of the work week!

Mondays and Wednesdays will be brought to us by our new and fabulous columnists, which I will introduce to you tomorrow. Tuesdays will rotate between Artist Profiles and our new "Making it Together" section. Thursdays will be our "Wild Card" day each week and finally, Fridays I will be writing about green alternatives to every day items and fun DIY projects.

We would love to hear from you too! Do you have a fun DIY project or before and after photos of a recent project? Did you take your D&L reusable coffee sleeve to a fun & far off place? How about a green tip to share? We want to see your photos and hear all about it. E-mail your submissions to with "Submission" in the subject line.