Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Somewhere in the World - Michigan, Upper Peninsula



Last summer we flew to Minneapolis to retrieve our daughters from a Japanese camp that they had been attending. We decided to take a side trip and drive to visit my brother and his family in Marquette, Michigan. My family and I were raised in the suburbs of Detroit and all migrated away from the Midwest, except my brother, Tim, who put down roots in the U.P. I had been there once before in about 1978 but had very little memory of the town of Marquette. I had never seen his house, except in photos. It is sad, but my family is large, we all wander a bit, and we don't really stick close (geographically) although we are all pretty close emotionally.

Anyway, It was great to go there and to spend time with them doing the kinds of things they do in their small Northern, Midwestern town. They had a garage full of old bikes and we all hopped on and rode all over the place. We hiked up a steep trail to this vista overlooking Lake Superior. The view was awesome and when I scanned in close, I saw this magical bit of lichen and star moss:


We rode bikes out onto Presque Isle (almost an island but connected by a small strip of land big enough for cars and bikes). After a hot bike ride, we were brave enough to jump into the chilly water of the greatest of the Great Lakes. It was glorious!

The town was also very well suited to community and culture. There were great shops, cafes, and parks. The library was world class, and the university had an amazing art gallery.


It was such a pleasure to spend time with my brother and his family. He and his wife and 2 daughters are all such easy-going, creative, health-concsious people. We got exercise, ate really healthfully, listened to them play their Irish music (they are all accomplished musicians), and had fun political discussions!
I wish the world weren't so big and we didn't have to be so far away from the ones we love, but at least we get to travel and see so many wonderful places. They visited us in Arizona and I hope they will come to see us in Sydney!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Life in a Southwestern Mountain Town #9 The Internet




Living in a small out of the way town requires many adjustments. When we first moved here, if I wanted organic veggies, I had to buy frozen. We try to shop locally, but many things just aren't available, and sometimes I just don't have the time to drive all over. I would prefer to walk or ride my bike all over, but the weather, hills, sprawl, and lack of bike lanes makes it pretty hard.
Also, there are fewer job opportunities, especially if you are raising a family and want flexibility.

So, I have to say, I am thankful for the internet. It connects me with the rest of the world, sometimes far away, and sometimes just on the other side of town. I can do research, shop, make and maintain social contacts, and even sell my work!

Because I sew and do textile design for my own small business, I live a somewhat solitary existence. But I know that there are loads of other people living somewhat parallel lives. Through blogging, Facebook, email, and Etsy, I have gotten to know many of them (without ever having actually met!) It makes me feel good to share experiences inspiration and ideas; support each other's work; and get a glimpse of the variety of lives around the world. It also makes me feel compassion, concern, and sadness when I hear of other people's struggles and suffering. Even though we aren't related by blood or proximity, we somehow are connected and we feel we know each other quite well in some way. It is a puzzle to me but it is true.

Maybe it is a normal phenomenon for young people who are raised with "social networking." For me, I am in a generation watching this science-fiction fantasy become real, watching but participating. I am not ready for alien take overs but I am not fearful of "the net." I know that it can give "creepers" (as my daughter would say) the chance to exploit the innocent. But I also know that, just like in the world at large, there are many many more good people.

The photos at the top are an example of a feature on Etsy called "treasury". Sellers make a mix of items that they think fit a theme or look great together. It is kind of like a display window where samples of items are featured and the overall effect is enticing. Sometimes friends, sometimes strangers, put me into these treasuries. I am always flattered and excited - like being invited to a party! It is also a great way to find new stores and beautiful things!

Thanks to Tiki and Sharon for putting me in these two lovelies!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday - Funday! Puricute!



This is a website of cuteness and silliness! I haven't researched it thoroughly but I have played around on it with my daughters and we just copy our creations to our desktop rather than save them on the site. If you are into Japanese cuteness, check it out: Puricute.com. Click on "make a puricute pic."

You can see that my cat has not signed off on these pictures, as she would no doubt be humiliated. But she would like the idea of being queen!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Socializing - "The English Kitchen"




This is where I share a blog or website that I love. Today I want to tell you about a foodie blog that my daughter found when she was looking for a recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding. It is called "The English Kitchen". (click on the name to connect to her blog).

Like the author, Marie Rayner, says, she is "debunking the myth" that English food is tasteless and unhealthy. She has a great site with yummy recipes, fun commentary, and beautiful photos.
The photo at the top is from her site and features her Plum and Almond Crumble Cake!

We lived in London for a year and I never saw such variety of foods in grocery stores, markets, restaurants, dinner parties and television cooking shows. My favorite thing was the column by Nigel Slater in the Sunday paper. I knew I loved him when I got his cookbook called "Appetite"
and there was a photo of him wearing a dirty apron. A true cook, in my opinion, gets their apron dirty.

After mulling over this website, my daughter found this Sticky Toffee Cake (in the bottom 2 photos above). She made it and it was delicious. She also made the fish cobbler (which sounds bizarre but tasted like the perfect yummy comfort food for a cold spring night).

You need a kitchen scale or the ability to wing it because the recipes are written in grams etc. But it is worth trying because the food is genuinely the best of what you might see in a creative British kitchen or cafe. Scroll through the photos and the side bar to see past recipes. Enjoy the music while you do so!

Bon Apetit! (Where can I get my hands on some plums??)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Skirts on Friday: What Season Is It?



Just when the daffodils are nodding their pretty heads and i am thinking of new ways to freshen up my 4skirts, the sky gets dark and it starts hailing and snowing. I went out in a sweater yesterday as a form of resistance but I put my coat in the trunk of my car incase I got stranded in the white out! Most of it didn't stick but it is still cold and dreary and frustrating to all of us who have already had a long, cold winter.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I have an idea! or I had one and it worked!



My parents raised me to be thrifty, self-reliant, and creative when it came to problem-solving. Whether they meant to or not, this led to a sort of "eco" consciousness. Things like starting from scratch with whatever was on hand, re-using, and using till it's worn out were common messages that we got. My mom and dad seemed to be able to make or fix just about anything.

Nowadays, I don't seem to always have the courage or the necessity to tackle every problem, but I think most of their cleverness wore off on me, and I am usually pretty good at solving things when I decide to try. I painted bathroom, I knew to remove a broken lightbulb with modeling clay, I made roman blinds for our living room, and I knew to throw baking soda into the oven when dripping oil caught on fire. (yes, I did try to cook a whole egg in the microwave once causing it to explode - horrific smell and mess! - but that was an anomaly!

Anyway, I had the idea to get my showers/tubs super, super clean. We have not-so-nice fiberglass molded shower/tubs and the soap and mineral deposit build up can be a real pain to clean, so I rarely try to get it thoroughly spotless. We also have a ledge for the soap and it melts and runs down the shower wall leaving a thick trail of film.

I was feeling lazy and bought nasty, toxic "no scrub" spray. It did not work and it did give me a headache and stunk up my house. So, today I got my rubber gloves, a jar of white vinegar, and some Bon Ami. I wiped down everything with vinegar, rubbed it with the BonAmi, and rinsed. I had to apply a little "elbow grease" but it worked wonderfully and everything looks really clean and shiny!

I think the smell of the vinegar was actually invigorating! Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Somewhere in the World - Sydney Australia!!!






O.K., I can't hold back any longer. After 14 years of living in a small town in a mountain desert, we are going to be moving to a new life in Sydney, Australia!!

Yes, it is a permanent move (as much as anything is permanent)! Yes, it is far away. Yes, we are all very excited and enthusiastic about going! I always felt that my time in Flagstaff was temporary and I was beginning to feel foolish (it probably was foolish in any case) about not accepting my presence in this place. I started thinking that I had been wrong and that we were going to end up growing old and being buried here. But, my husband got hired to a great university in Sydney and we are moving there next year.

We were there about 6 years ago so I have a visual understanding of the city and the country. I know first-hand what the people are like and what types of lifestyles are possible. I don't think I am being too idealistic when I say that it is a fantastic place to live! There is a lot of planning and arranging of living situations, placements, etc. to be done, but, to use a cliche,"it is all good!"

A quick tour of the city and I will post more soon...

The first photo is of the waterfront walkway leading from the botanical gardens to the famous Opera House.
Next is me with a magnolia flower on one of the trees in a park. Remember the expression "never eat anything bigger than your head" ? Well, what do they say about growing flowers that are bigger?
Next is a view of the downtown from inside the Chinese Friendship Gardens.
Bondi Beach! One of the many beaches around the city. Yes, surfing and sunning in a major metropolitan area!
Me in front of one of the fabulous museum/galleries. My art senses are stirring and getting ready to be fed! (if you can believe it, I am wearing one of my 4skirts - Zara! I make things last don't I?!)

It looks good doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #22 - Sewing Class





My brother showed me how to use a treadle sewing machine when I was seven years old. Before that, I am sure my mom and sisters showed me how to use a needle, thread, and scissors. I made doll clothes and toys for myself. As I got older, I learned to make simple things on my own and I learned the "right" way to do things when I was in home-ec in 7th grade.

I can't remember my teacher's name but I can see her in my mind and I can remember the classroom, her instructions, and the things that I made. I made myself a pair of brown, wide wale corduroy, bell bottom trousers. They had a cuff, a zipper, a fly, waistband, and flat-felled seams.

Nowadays, fewer and fewer schools offer sewing and fewer people are taking it. With all the demands on young people's time (music lessons, sports, dance, and homework), there isn't much time for fun, let alone "old-fashioned" home economic skills. So, I do my best to champion this craft/skill whenever I get the chance.

I have offered afternoon classes in my daughters' elementary school and I had a group of 6-8 students. I also taught summer camp classes on fabric and fiber-arts to children from age 5-13. These lasted 5 years until I decided to move on to spend time on more of my own artwork.
I was glad to have influenced so many of the next generation with regards to the fun and usefulness of sewing. I often hear from parents how much their child gained from the classes and how they have since developed a strong interest in sewing.

I just started a private sewing class with one 11 year old pupil. We sat down the first day and talked about what she needed to gain from the classes in order to make her a skilled and independent designer, seamstress and fabric artist. Here is the list we came up with:

.5 understanding and using the machine.
1. cutting a smooth even line of fabric
2. putting on buttons, snaps, and hook and eye
3. putting in a zipper
4. making different kinds of seams, hems, and edges
5. understanding different kinds of fabrics
6. reading a pattern and adjusting it to your measurements
7. altering patterns and creating your own looks
8. quilting, making home dec, toys, and accessories

We have 8 weeks and I hope we can end with a sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm for many future years of happy sewing.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Life in a Southwestern Mountain Town #9 Spring Cleaning



There is a reason why I avoid raking the pine needles. In fact, there are several reasons. Many of them are the same reasons why I avoid other less-than-urgent chores.

For one thing, they aren't urgent, so I choose to put them off in favor of other immediately necessary tasks (like the dishes or laundry), or better yet, fun.

For another thing, they are usually on a large, daunting scale - i.e. taking all day or days! I spent one whole day last week cleaning out the cupboards and drawers in my bathroom! I thought I would take the morning and do both bathrooms, but I only got through one. The good news is, they are both much more tidy and useable now, and I donated a very large, overflowing grocery bag full of cosmetics, toiletries, and first-aid supplies to the local women's shelter. (There is a group of students at the university who are having a drive and they were happy to collect the donations and deliver it for me!)

The main reason I am remiss in taking care of certain chores is the filth factor! I really don't want to get involved with certain kinds of dirt. I have asthma and sinus problem (good excuse, right?) and it really grosses me out and actually makes me sick to deal with dust and mold.

Today I took on the pine needles on my side yard. I will soon work my way around the front and backyard. I raked till my wrists were wobbly and made 5 huge piles. I was driven by the incentive of knowing that my husband is going to pick up the piles and my arms will be just a little less flabby.

Next on the long, dreaded list is the back porch!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday - Funday! Lenka

If you haven't heard of the Australian singer, Lenka, you are missing out on some seriously light-hearted, smile inducing music! Her voice is like a sweet bird, her lyrics are whimsical, and her personal style and creativity put her right in the middle of the hip, happening, handmade revolution! She even did an afternoon virtual chat on etsy.com.

Enjoy the video, check out more on youtube, and check out her fan page on facebook. She may be coming to play in your town soon!


Friday, April 16, 2010

4 SKIRTS


Today was kind of a break out day for me. In fact, the last several weeks have been moving that way. In January and February I felt that there was a wall in front of my nose and all doors were locked. Now, like the season, my life seems to be springing up and out and forward!

In honor of the warmer weather and the more liberating feeling I have, I am going to start dressing more freely and more light! I am turning back to Zara, my thin, rayon chiffon skirt. In honor of my first time in the ETSY voter, I am wearing my own advertisement t-shirt!

Hope you are enjoying warmer weather and I hope you will vote for me!! Here is the link: http://www.etsy.com/voter_list.php?ref=voter&room_id=103

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Somewhere in the World - Barcelona Spain






In 1985 my husband (then boyfriend) and I went to Europe. We had studied the cooperative society of the Basque city of Mondragon in an organizational psychology class and we wanted to go explore and possibly live in Spain.

We traveled from London, through France and Switzerland, to Barcelona. It was January and, much to our dismay, wet and frigid when we arrived. The city looked dismal and abandoned as we trudged through the streets trying to find food and our pension (a small, low-cost hotel or home with rooms to let). We got some bread and peanut butter at a convenience store. We left our coats on in our room as we ate, then crawled under the covers to get warm, and fell asleep.

About two hours later, we woke to what sounded like crowds of people outside our window. When we opened the shutters, the streets were bright, bustling, and alive with shops, restaurants, families, young people, old people, dogs, laughing, shopping, strolling. We realized that we had arrived during siesta, and our opinion of the place immediately flipped from bad to good.

We spent about ten days there and didn't get to see everything. It is a city full of spontaneity, passion, creativity and flair. I loved the Gaudi, the Miro, and Picasso's Guernica. I loved strolling and shopping on the Ramblas and eating groceries from the Mercat de la BoquerĂ­a, Barcelona's gigantic central market. There are stalls with everything from flowers to cheese, to hanging legs of jamon (Spanish Prosciutto). I loved the old narrow winding streets and most of all, the fashion sense of the Spanish people.

When we went it cost $3.50/night to stay in a small but clean and safe room. Dinner was about 2-5 dollars. It was before the olympics were there and before the Euro. It is much more costly now but I think it is still very much worth the experience.

From the bottom up, the photos are:
Check out Annafabo on etsy. She lives in Barcelona.
Don't forget the fashionable children! Here is one from Melimelon.
The Market.
A map of the area around the Miro Museum!!
An overview of The Ramblas.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #22 - Florals









I have always been a sucker for florals, but now I don't have to apologize, because they are BACK!!

Just like any other trend, they cycle through over and over with minor variations. They have been around as long as textiles have existed and thank goodness they are not considered passe in our modern, tech-centric world.

Large or small, printed or embellishment, they are soothing and uplifting reminders of the beauty in the world.

One of my Shecological bags with a Japanese floral detail that gives life to a plain organic cotton canvas.
Laura Ashley made it big with florals in the '70s and she is still going strong with her designs for clothing and home dec.
Marimekko is famous for its ultra-mod poppy pattern but I like this Marimekko fabric used by Mod Diva in this pillow.
Liberty florals have always been the creme de la creme. They were even featured in a new line of products at Target! This small coin clutch by Sew Lola is a lovely example of their beautiful fabric.
Hand made and florals go together amazingly! Just look at this first-class piece of hand printed fabric by Jezze Prints.
Amy Butler is a young, textile designing super-star who uses beautiful, vivid color combinations and combines florals and geometric prints in her fabric lines. Chic Bazar uses two of them here in this colorful bag.
Of all of the florals though, you probably won't be surprised to hear me say, my favorite ones are those of the Japanese textile designers. Like this one used by Blue Manatee, they are just so kawaii!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday - Funday!



This is going to be a place for fun, funny, and random things that make me smile! Normally, they will be video clips, songs, products, etc. Today, however, I am so smiley and happy over the fun evening we had last night sending my daughter off to her junior prom! She and her date were good sports and let us take lots of pictures of them.

I helped her search for a dress on etsy, got some ideas for style, hair and make-up, and in the end, we collaborated to create a gorgeous look for the "Alice in Wonderland" themed dance.

We got a used Jessica McClintock dress at an Elks Club dress swap and upcycled it to amazing results! I made the hair fascinator and Mira made the wrist cuffs. We watched youtube videos to learn techniques for hair and make-up, and Mira chose the look she wanted. She wore my vintage pop bead pearls and earrings from Target. I did her mani/pedi, hair and make-up (including false eyelashes). It felt like I was in an episode of Project Runway! We were rushing in the end, but we all kept our heads and had a blast with it!

She came home beaming with a tiara and sash and told us (humbly) that she was shocked to have been voted by her peers as Prom Princess!

I really don't care what Micheal Kors or Heidi Klum think, I felt like it was a stunning success!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday Socializing



I find so many sites that I love and wish I could show to everyone, so I decided to just post links once a week. I will just share as many of my favorite blogs and websites that I can think of.

Today I want to show everyone a superb, stunning and satisfyingly minimalistic site called just three things. It is run by a textile artist and etsian called CricketApollo. (Her shop is closed right now but I will keep my eye out for when it opens again.) I love seeing what amazing things she finds for her blog and I was fortunate enough to be featured one day! Check it out!

The painting is by Jacob van Hulsdonck, and was featured on a recent post.
The sachets are an example of some of Cricket's work.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I have an idea!





Whenever we stay at hotels, we collect the shampoos and other free toiletries. We have quite a collection going. Someone suggested that we donate them to homeless shelters. This is a great idea but I would like to take it one step further. I have loads of cosmetics and toiletries that I have used once and shoved to the back of my cabinet for one reason or another. I am going to round it all up and put it in a box for the shelter.

You might think that this is the last thing that people down on their luck need. They don't even have food or clean, warm clothing. Of course those are of primary importance, but a little luxury is probably something they rarely get. A momentary pampering might be the bit of frivolity that cheers them up and gives them a broader outlook.

Personally, I love the company Lather. I got their samples in a Marriott and was thrilled to find that they have a store in Scottsdale. You can get them on line or look for them free in hotels.

Also, I can't resist when Clinique has a free promotion. I usually keep the little bags and never use the cosmetics.

There are probably all kinds of cynical, pessimistic and cautionary arguments against it. But, I am choosing to take a positive attitude. Someone will love it, and it is better than throwing it away.