Friday, December 14, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

My plan to make all of the gifts for my holiday gift exchanges was well intentioned and realistic... were it not for all of the other things that come along with the holidays.

It's the appetizer making, cookie baking, cocktail party attending, concert going and, of course, shopping, that seemed to get in the way of the thing I needed to be doing: sewing.

Thankfully I managed to find some time over the weekend and, as I slaved away in my craft room, I couldn't help but think about the holidays - how we all look forward to them, how we welcome the break from the routine. But, it seems that we all overextend ourselves during this time - making sure our decorations are just right, we have the perfect present for everyone on our list, and that we attend all of the various events to which we're invited. By the time January rolls around, we're frazzled from travel, exhausted from over-booked schedules and bloated from a season of holiday-variety gluttony. We return to our routines in dire need of another holiday.

Yet we do it every year. In my family's case, in addition to all of the rest of the usual, the holidays mean putting up the totally tacky, totally overdone light display, pulling out handmade stockings, cooking a huge Polish meal for Christmas Eve, and spending lots of time with friends and family. And, truth be told, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Some of my fondest memories are of the holiday season and, as time so often has the funny propensity to do, when I think of all of those memories, it's only the good stuff that sticks in my mind. I forget how I spent 8 hours in the kitchen - working until my back cramped and feet ached - preparing homemade pierogies, kluski, chruschici - but vividly remember sitting around the table on Christmas Eve recouting the year, enjoying good wine and food, and enjoying each other's company.

I know that when I think back on this year, I won't remember the stress I felt while sitting at my sewing machine all day, cursing every upcoming holiday gift exchange but I will think back upon how much people enjoyed their gifts - how my girlfriends, in true white-elephant fashion, fought over the sushi print apron or how I created the most adorable present for my secret santa.

Although each year I promise I won't do as much, in the end, I know I will. Because, ultimately, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Retail Therapy

I have a confession to make: I have a weak spot for pretty things. I'm a marketer's dream. Slap together a pretty website, cute packaging or amazing color combinations and I'm sold.

That, armed with the fact that I have my credit card number, expiration date and CVV2 number memorized, makes a little time and a computer with an internet connection, very, very dangerous.

A while back, I came across the prettiest iridescent polka dot fabric - and it kept getting better when I realized it came in every color of the rainbow. I immediately fell in love with Michael Miller's Mirror Ball Dot fabric. When, a few weeks later, I found out that they packaged and sold a box of the fat quarters in EVERY SINGLE COLOR, I knew I had to have it. So, I added it to my wish list and promised myself I'd get it.

Fast forward to about a year later. The Mirror Ball Dot fat quarter boxes were becoming scarce. In fact, so scarce that the places where I'd originally seen the box were now out. Sure, I could have asked about ordering it - found out if they were getting more in but, when I found a store with it still in stock, I figured it was destiny. It was the universe's way of telling me I had to have that fabric. I didn't hesitate and I typed in those 16 digits as fast as I could.

Although that might have, under ordinary circumstances, satiated my internet-shopping whims for the week, during an evening of blog-surfing, I had to click one little link that started a snowball of 'add to cart' action.

It's just paper, right? That's what I thought too when I clicked the link. It might be just paper but it's very, very pretty paper.

Needless to say, I'm excited about my new purchases and I can't wait to put them to good use. Black Friday, Cyber Monday - call it what you want but I call it retail inspiration.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Making a List...

The relatives are all gone and the leftovers have been polished off which only means one thing: time to get to work.

Both sets of parents, my brother and Coltrane's favorite buddy, my parents' dog, Daisy, were all here to help us celebrate what we're most thankful for: family, good health, another wonderful year behind us and, of course, the large heirloom tomato growing in my belly.

But Thanksgiving is over which means it's time to get ready for Christmas. Time to haul out the tubs and tubs of Christmas decorations so my husband can decorate the house a la Clark Griswold. And, time to prepare for pot luck dinners, holiday parties and, the obligatory white elephant or secret santa gift exchanges.

Ordinarily having to stock up on $15 or $20 gifts appropriate for a group of women or co-workers sends me into a tizzy. Last year I knit like crazy - trying desperately to finish a series of complicated scarfs. But this year, I have my bases covered. The answer to this year's gift party conundrum? Aprons and potholders!

I've stocked up on fabric, perfected the pattern and, after giving them as a gift a few times, I know they're well received.

So, time to get into my sewing room and work off all of that turkey stuffing - if I didn't know better, I'd think I was developing a bit of a gut!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ready for a Break from my Break

I'm a creature of habit. I love having a schedule and I'm never without at least 2 or 3 to-do lists. My comfort zone is firmly planted in the middle of a well-planned day. Unfortunately I haven't had too many of those lately.

Last weekend we traveled to Asheville for my high school friend's wedding. We stayed at an amazing Bed and Breakfast, laughed until our stomachs ached, hung out with some of our best friends, enjoyed an absolutely perfect wedding, and experienced what may have been the most beautiful weather of the year.

It was almost an idyllic weekend. Note: almost.

On Saturday morning our friends who were getting married arranged for their guests to take a trolley tour of Asheville. Since the visitors' center from which the trolley was set depart was only a few blocks from our B&B, we decided to enjoy the crisp morning and walk. We were chatting, enjoying the other gorgeous houses when BAM! - I tripped on the leaf-covered sidewalk and fell flat on my belly - my 16-and-a-half week pregnant belly.

After a few calls to the on-call doctor, a weekend full of worrying and an ultrasound on Monday, we now know that the little bugger is fine - comfy and cozy in my belly, jumping up and down on my cervix, no less. But that didn't make it any less dramatic.

We have another wedding on Saturday, my husband's aunt is coming to town on Sunday and we have another friend visiting from Monday through Thursday. I beginning to wonder if I will ever have a regular schedule again - a schedule without impromptu doctors' visits or weekend-long events.

I haven't been to the gym in ages, all of the unfinished projects that normally litter the bed in the spare room so I can work on them whenever I have 5 - 10 minutes are piled in a huge stack on my cutting table, I can't remember the last time I did real grocery shopping, and as I sorted laundry last night I almost cried when I stared at the seven piles of clothes waiting to be washed.

Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed every wedding and, given the choice between having friends and family around or sticking to a schedule, I'll take the friends and family, hands down. But I could use some time to catch my breath.

I will get back to sewing one of these days, I promise...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Being Realistic Instead of Perfectionistic

Whenever someone has asked about my website recently, I've given them the address followed by a disclaimer. "It's in dire need of updating - I'm going to try to get to it this weekend," I'd say.

The problem? I've been issuing that disclaimer for about 6 months. Next weekend has turned into the next weekend, which has turned into the next weekend... you get the picture.

While the sitebuilder product I used to build my store is extraordinarily easy to use, it's much better for someone who has lots of stuff or lots of time - someone who can load the products and let it go or, alternatively, someone who has the time to manage it more than once every 6 months. Given the way I work (probably a result of slight ADD and a propensity toward boredom if required to make the same thing too many times), I found myself struggling to keep my store updated - to circulate inventory in and out of the shop, set up new products, and just maintain it in a way that kept up with my 'everything must be perfect or the world will stop' nature.

So, instead, this weekend I caught up with my good friend Etsy. Sure, it's not as fancy-schmantzy as a storefront but, given that lately I barely have time to fit in showers and meals, Etsy is perfect. Shoot a few pictures, write a quick description, name your price and, BAM: 20 cents later, your item is posted in a pretty little listing. For sellers like me - with only a few items and continually revolving inventory, it's a great option.

At the request of friends, family and the kind people who stopped by my booth at the Strut, I've posted a ton of my leftover inventory and re-directed my site to my Etsy Store.

Now maybe I'll be able to find some time to sew!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I had a friend who lives in Florida email me today - she'd just heard the news of our impending arrival and insisted that I keep her updated with photos.

I didn't have the heart to write back and tell her that she probably won't be getting any photos.

Maybe it's because I'm always the one behind the camera - that it's too hard to direct my husband to shoot pictures so that they come out the way I have them set-up in my mind. Or that I'm too lazy to set up the tripod and use the timer.

Or because our camera is broken and our memory card is corrupted - and I don't have the patience to go through the 20 steps necessary to take and dump one photo.

But truthfully I've got to believe the main reason why I haven't taken a single pregnancy photo is because I hate the way I look.

I broke out the maternity clothes yesterday. 15 weeks, that's got to be one for the record books. I never thought I'd have to wear maternity clothes at 15 weeks - the time in my pregnancy when my friend Miki was still bragging about fitting into her size 2 designer jeans, my size 8 pants were cutting off circulation to my lower extremities.

I did a fashion show for my husband yesterday - let him know the kind of sexy he had to look forward to for the next 6 months; the pulled-up-to-beneath-your-boobs, spandex-patch-in-the-front, huge-elastic-waistband kind of hot. He thinks it's cute - I, however, think it's hideous.

People who didn't know I was pregnant until now have started to ask. "When are you expecting?" they say and, although I'm tempted to reply, "Expecting what?" instead I say, "Not for a while - way too far off to be showing this much."

Those who already knew about the baby have also started to comment. "Oh you're getting so big!" they exclaim, as if it's a complement. To some women it might be - to me it's the equivalent of my husband telling me my ass looks fat in my favorite jeans.

I hate the stupid pregnancy t-shirts with sayings like, "Yes, I'm pregnant!" or "Baby". I hate going shopping and seeing all of the cute fall fashions as I make my way to the maternity section, where everything is loose and over-sized. I hate being told that I'm going to have to give up my 4-inch heels. And I hate people commenting on the continual expansion of my waistline.

I knew I wouldn't be one of those people who talks about being pregnant every minute of the day and I've always sworn that, although I know my life will change, I won't let this baby to change who I am. Never say never but I didn't enjoy hanging out with pregnant women or new moms before I got pregnant, I don't enjoy it now that I am pregnant and I don't expect it change my mind on the topic anytime soon. I doubt I'll ever be one of those pregnant women who think that they're so special and that somehow they're entitled to something just by virtue of the fact that they're pregnant.

But, I did think that I'd be sentimental - the kind of woman who takes pictures every month to document her growing belly and who keeps journals of all of the funny, insightful and touching moments over the course of the 9 month process.

Apparently things aren't at all what I expected.

During the first trimester, I didn't have any morning sickness and I didn't fall asleep on the couch the minute I got home from work as everyone insisted I would. I still crave all of the things I can't have (wine, strong dark coffee, unpasteurized cheese, lox and sushi) - unlike all of my friends who insisted I wouldn't want any of those things - that the sight or idea of them would make me nauseous - while I was pregnant. Quite honestly, I find pregnancy to be much like every day life - except for the fact that I'm fat.

And I find it difficult to get riled up over that.

I know I should get excited about my growing midsection - it's been a long time coming and I should be grateful that it's finally here, without shots, pills or other medical procedures. The baby is about 4 inches long now and, according to one of my email newsletters, if I were to shine a flashlight on my belly, the baby would be able to sense the light and move to the other side of my uterus. It's hard to believe (and also pretty cool) that I'm growing that inside of me - and I guess that a big belly and ugly clothes are a small price to pay for the ultimate reward. Just give me some time to warm up to the idea of documenting it on a memory card.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Joy of Simplicity

Last weekend I went 'home' for a bridal shower for one of my high school friends. It's funny how, no matter how long I've been gone, or the fact that I've lived away almost as many years as I lived there, there's something in me that thinks of Ft. Lauderdale as home. It was great to see my family and to catch up with friends who have, like me, scattered throughout the country. It's always great to be around those people who know you the best - the people with whom you can be yourself and with whom you can laugh about your feathered hair, bad judgment in boyfriends or simply memories of times that feel like forever ago.

For what was probably the first time in my life, I decided I was going to be prepared for this shower. A few weeks before the shower I logged on to Wedding Channel. I had my plan: order the gift, have it shipped to my parents' house in Ft. Lauderdale and take it to the shower. Easy right?

Not so fast. No registries under her name on Wedding Channel. So I searched everywhere else. Target? No. Linens N Things? Nothing. Bed Bath & Beyond? Nada.

Turns out my friend - being the great person she is - hasn't registered intentionally. She'd rather people spend their money on coming to her wedding - to be there to celebrate with her and her new husband, rather than on some trinket that will sit in their kitchen.

That's fine. I'm creative - I can make her a gift, I decided. After giving it some thought I decided on the perfect gift: Sublime Stitching embroidered kitchen towels. For bonus points I'd work their names and wedding date into the design.

Naturally, in true Robin fashion, two days before the shower, I hadn't even started the gift. But, determined to finish a handmade gift before the shower, I called an audible. I threw some of my favorite fabric in my bag and thanked the lord baby Jesus that my mom has the same sewing machine as I do.

A few months ago I bought Amy Karol's book. Much like Amy Butler's book, it took me a while to break down and buy it and, I'm almost embarrassed to admit why. While I know that Project Runway may not be the next entry on my sewing resume, I do know my way around a sewing machine and I worried that the book might be too elementary for me - that the projects would be boring, things for which I don't need instructions or patterns.

But, in a fit of boredom one afternoon, I broke down. And, I'm glad I did. The projects are pretty simple but they're so darn fun.

Sometimes it's better to not have to think - to be able to have the measuring and experimenting done for you. To be able to just pick up something and do it - instead of having to figure out how to do it, scratching your head at each step along the way. This weekend was one of those times. Within 2 hours - start to finish - I had an adorable apron and, complements of Denyse Schmidt's instruction in her equally great book, a matching oven mitt. A perfect gift for a dear friend in record time.

Now if only I could find a way to get the bride to cook...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Falling Behind

I've always been one to bit of more than I can chew, burn the candle at both ends, put too much on my plate - whatever idiom you choose to use for someone who tries to do too much, chances are it applies to me.

It's 9:00 pm and as I sit here frustrated; although I realize that I probably couldn't ever accomplish everything on my overly-ambitious to-do lists, even if weekends were 4 days long, I'm angry with myself for not being able to accomplish more.

Of the things on my list: packing up a custom order dress for my friend Daniella and putting together some fabric samples for a very sweet, very patient woman who has asked me to help design a crib skirt for her baby. Yet, here I sit, at 9 pm, exhausted after putting in a long day at the office, cooking dinner, checking email and trying to squeeze in a little exercise.

I have great visions of what I want to do for our first child - of the scrapbook pages I'll make, the clothing I'll sew, the super cool projects that will decorate the baby's room. But, I wonder if I'll ever get around to all of it.

I'd like to blame it on the baby - to think that my lack of energy is the result of this thing growing inside of me - but quite honestly, I can't think of a single period in my life in which I haven't felt like I was behind the proverbial 8-ball. Perhaps I thrive on this type of self-applied pressure - maybe it's my own form of motivation. But, damn, can it get exhausting.

I'm always amazed by those women - you know the ones I'm talking about. The ones who manage to put their photos in albums, complete scrapbook pages before the event being memorialized is over a year old, manage to cook, bake and garden, hit the gym every day and find time to write about it. Anyone know their secret?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Moving On

"Are you folks enjoying my hotel?"

We stood there in the elevator - me, my husband and our friends Jeanine and James. My husband's band played earlier that night at the House of Blues and we'd spent the hours after the show lingering in the posh Foundation Room, sipping cocktails and toasting James' thirtieth birthday.

By the time we made it across the street to the hotel, it was well past 2 am - our eyes blurry from the late hour and a night filled with the type of jokes that push you to tears.

So, when the question was posed to us, we stood there in shock. I wish I could remember what we said. I'm sure one of us mumbled something and that we all quickly stepped out of the elevator. But I do clearly remember what happened when the doors closed after us - we all stood there in disbelief, with eyes that asked, "Was that really??" After all, it's not ever day you meet Dan Ackroyd in the Chicago House of Blues Hotel elevator at 2:30 in the morning.

During a break in my schedule during my last trip to Chicago, I had to visit Bin 36 - one of my favorite places to go during my frequent trips to Chicago. Even though I knew I couldn't indulge in either of my passions given the growing bean in my belly, I still wanted to visit a familiar place, a place where I've shared long afternoons over wine flights and cheese plates.

I was on the phone with my husband, chatting about my day, as I made my way down Dearborn, when I saw the sign. "They changed the name of the House of Blues Hotel," I exclaimed. We'd known that the House of Blues Hotel and the Loews hotel group were parting ways so I can't say the name change was surprising but what I saw when I made my way to the hotel and up the stairs, was a complete shock.

Gone was the huge pink chair that sat outside, the huge golden Buddha that greeted visitors in the lobby, and the funky decor. The bold colors were replaced with white and the decor lacked any of the originality that excited me so much back in 1998 when I visited for the first time.

My heart sunk and tears welled in my eyes. I felt as though I'd lost a good friend. I recounted every change with my husband on the line and could sense that his disappointment mirrored mine - we'd shared many, many memories at the House of Blues hotel. Of the cities we travel to together, Chicago is by far the most frequent and we've never stayed anywhere other than the House of Blues Hotel. I felt as though so many of our memories were wiped away with a few coats of paint and some new furniture.

It made me wish I'd said more on that night so many years ago - that I'd said how much I loved that hotel. That I'd mentioned how it was my first introduction to Chicago so many years ago and how I thought it represented so much of what I love about Chicago: energy, fun, hospitality. I wish I'd spoken of the memories shared at that hotel - of how I loved to see the faces of friends and family when the discovered the gem of a place, with it's Howard Finster artwork, terrazzo sinks and bottle cap phone. How we'd ushered in many special first trips, big birthdays and new years in that place and how I couldn't think of a better place to have spent each occasion. It was something unique - with it's own character - words almost never used in association with something as generic and sterile as a hotel. I wish I'd gushed about how great the House of Blues Hotel was and how much it meant to me.

I doubt any of that would have changed things; nevertheless, I feel compelled to say it now. Dan, I did enjoy your hotel - thanks for the memories.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Baby Troj

We stood in the bathroom as our dog Coltrane pushed his way in there too - not willing to miss out on any of the action. "This is taking forever," I sighed. There are few times in your life when 3 minutes seems like an eternity and this was one of them.

Finally I saw it. "Wow - so I guess that's it, huh?"

My husband stood there in shock and finally asked, "So are these things ever wrong?" His skepticism not for lack of excitement - but rather a direct result of his disbelief, our disbelief that after three years - at the time when we least expected - the moment was finally here.

But just a few weeks later we learned the answer to his question. It wasn't wrong and we're really, really excited.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Lock!

It's been forever since a Favorite Things Friday but I'm here to redeem myself - a day late and a dollar short, as my grandmother always said.

I've wanted a serger for a while but I also know that if/when I get one, I want to get something that's going to do what I need for it to do - not one that I'm going to grow out of in a year. The good news is that after pouring over a ton of websites, talking with friends and reading a great article in a back issue of Threads magazine, I know what I want: a five thread serger (preferably the Janome, Pfaff, or Bernina). The bad news: as you can probably guess based on those names, the price of a five thread serger - even a used one - is pretty hefty.

So, I'm saving for that perfect serger but, in the interim, I decided to get the next best thing and bought an overlock foot for my sewing machine. I finally decided to take on the scary looking foot and give it a shot last month while preparing for the East Atlanta Strut.

The verdict? It's definitely no serger but at about a quarter of the price, it's a great little tool.

There are a few tricks to learn - positioning the fabric correctly, ensuring there's enough fabric under the cutter, and sewing at a slower speed (which is probably the most difficult part for a speed demon like me!) - but after getting the hang of it, I wondered how I ever lived without this foot.

An overlock foot isn't for everyone - you need to have a sewing machine that is capable of doing an overlock stitch (although the foot instructions list a zig-zag stitch as another option, I can't see it working as well), you need a machine with interchangeable feet and, of course, you have to be sure that your manufacturer makes an overlock foot that fits your machine. But, assuming it's an option and you, like me, aren't quite ready to shell out the cash on a serger, an overlock foot is a great investment.

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Finally Able to Exhale

It's one of those perfect mornings. Every window in the house is open and the only thing I hear is the rustle of the trees in the wind and an occasional dog bark or train whistle. The dog is curled up on the couch next to me and I'm savoring the scent of the coffee brewing in the kitchen. It finally feels like fall - a slight bit of chill in the air and a significant drop in humidity. An ideal day to do what I'd planned: relax.

The past few weeks have been a blur. So many events, surprises and tests of my strength (tests that, I must admit, I didn't always pass with flying colors.)

Of all of the events, yesterday marked the one that's kept me the busiest, the one that had me in tears into the early, early hours of Saturday morning: the East Atlanta Strut.

Remember when I'd sworn off craft shows? I did it again - at 9 pm Friday night. And again at 11 pm. And again at midnight. And, again, complete with crying fit, at 2 am. Even after spending every spare minute of the past month locked in my sewing room, half of the items I'd hoped to finish were scattered throughout the room unfinished. I didn't have time to update my website or make a banner - although not necessities, things I hoped I would have done by 2 am the day of the show.

Nevertheless, I woke just a few hours later, packed up what little inventory (or, as my husband likes to call it, 'product') I had, and went to the show. I also packed up and put away my perfectionistic nature and made myself promise to do the one thing I'd entered this show to do: have fun.

And, guess what?

I did it.

For 10 hours yesterday, my friend Paige and I chatted while thousands and thousands of people admired our goods. The organizer told me it was the largest crowd they've ever had: the police estimated around 15,000 people in total.

Some of the nicest 15,000 people I've ever encountered. It was a beautiful day - mild temperatures, bright sun and a certain excitement in the air that's hard to describe.

It was an experience I will remember forever and, around 3 pm that afternoon, I'd taken back my decision to swear off craft shows forever. By 8 pm, as the sun began to set and we packed up the booth, I couldn't sign up for the next show fast enough.

Thanks to all of you who made it such a great experience - for my mom who helped with some of the sewing, for my booth-mate Paige and my friend Larry for making it such a fun day, for every single person who stopped by - a girl could get a big head if she listened to all of the comments, and finally to my husband who from the very beginning has been one of my biggest supporters. The list of what he did is endless: time spent researching displays, errands run for me, set-up dry runs, and an eager willingness to tend to everything around the house so I could sew.

I can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Getting Back that Swing

Last night I plugged in my iPod, put in my favorite playlist an got to work on a special order blanket. Again, while slip-stitching the edge of the blanket, as Joni Mitchell sang about a river and the Counting Crows sang about Elisabeth, I was calm, relaxed.

While I took photos of the blanket, I belted out 'Midnight Train to Georgia' with Gladys. I didn't care about how I sounded - it felt good to play, to be myself. Many guilty pleasures - songs that I wouldn't ever admit to liking or owning, let alone play around others - streamed from my iPod. Each time they brought a smile to my face and most times I sang along.

It's been a while since I sewed but it felt really, really good to get back into the swing of things. At the end of the night I tidied up my room, turned off all of the lights except for my parasol lamp and sat there. One of my favorite songs played in the background and I felt better than I have in ages. It's been way too long since I spent some time doing things for myself - since I indulged in activities that I love to do. And life it too short to spend all of your time organizing the basement or cleaning the windows.

It feels good to be back.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

So, we're in.

My friend Paige and I will be hanging out and hocking our stuff at the East Atlanta Strut on September 15th.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that all of the projects I've started must be put on hold. My old vinyl gym bag - a Clinique freebie that has served me well for almost 8 years - is finally falling apart and, although I'm so close to finishing a new bag out of pink oilcloth printed with oranges, with yellow gingham oilcloth straps, I'm going to have to put it aside. Amy Butler Barcelona Skirt? On hold. Amy Butler Weekender Travel Bag that I want to make so badly it makes me hurt? In the 'once I get done with the show' queue. Some trapeze-style blouses and flowery, airy dresses? By the time I get to them they'll be out of fashion. And the list of presents I need to make for friends who continue to pop out babies a seemingly daily rate? I've given up.

All is not lost though. This show really has me thinking. I've pulled out lots of great fabric and I'm really excited to experiment - to try some of the things I've been jotting down on paper for weeks and others that have come to me in the past few days as the proverbial creative juices have started to flow again.

It's also a good lesson in discipline: to rebuild my inventory and finish some of the staples - always a hard thing to do when faced with the exciting prospect of designing something new.

It's all so great, yet equally challenging: a recurring theme in my life lately. But I've never been one to shy away from a good challenge. Time to roll up the sleeves, put on the gloves, and dig in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Open Letter to My Favorite Kind of Law Enforcement: The Police

Dear Stew, Gord-o and Andy,

First, let me start with an apology.

I know that Florida seems like it has a lot going for it - great weather, nice beaches. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't love 360 days of sun each year? But, as you probably discovered on a Wednesday night a few weeks ago, the thing that really makes Florida unbearable isn't the heat or the hurricanes - it's the people.

I'm sorry that people didn't seem excited to be there - it had no reflection on the night. But more on that later... I think that the attitude of the people can be summed up by my experience after the show. My husband and I decided to wait out the traffic by having a drink at the hotel next to the arena: we found a table, sat down and waited for a waitress. No such luck - no waitresses. After making my way to the massive bar and seeing that there were only two female bartenders working the hoards of people who had the same idea we did, I took my place and reminded myself to be patient. And, for 20 minutes I waited amongst drunk guys who, while sloshing their jack and coke all over my white Ann Taylor blouse, pushed their way to the front of the bar, shouting out orders of 10 - 12 drinks each. "Oh wait - I need two more Cosmopolitans!" they'd yell at the bartender after she'd already printed their tab. Yeah, that kind of fun.

I was ignored on the bartender's first pass down the bar, but when I was ignored the second time (after waiting 20 minutes of dealing with the kind of jerks that I'm sure are present all over but who seem to come out in droves in the great Sunshine State) I had enough - we left. Too bad too because I would have given the bartender a much better tip than the 2% left by the aforementioned drunken meatheads. (I mean, seriously, who leaves a $1 tip on a $50 bar tab?) But I digress... At least now you know your audience.

But enough on the people because the show? Because the show... Ah the show.

For years I've listened to my husband wax poetic about what he'd do if the police ever got back together. As we sat in our seats that night, it was hard to believe the 'if' had become a reality.

Andy, although you might want to rethink the green in-ear monitors (they looked like big jalepenos stuck in your ear), you're still amazing. Great solos without being over done - not too short, not too long.

Stewart, you're a man after my husband's heart. When you brought out that big set of toys and ran around on the stage playing them all, you made my husband's jaw drop. Every so often I'd get an elbow nudge, "Check it out - he's playing the tympani!" my husband would exclaim.

And Sting, you could make a fortune bottling water from that fountain of youth you must have in your backyard - I know 20 year olds that don't look as good as you. Seriously, it's almost unnatural. And although you had to bring 'So Lonely' down a few steps (didn't think we'd notice, did you?), you sounded great.

Sure the set list was almost identical to the other shows you've played - so much so that my husband was accurately able to scream out the name of each song before it started but I honestly didn't care. I screamed until I lost my voice, I jumped up and down until I was soaked with sweat and I sang along to songs that brought back so many amazing memories - while also creating new memories that I'm sure I'll treasure for a long, long time.

Even better, I saw my husband in a state that - in our almost 10 years together - I've never seen. After the concert I realized that I've never seen my stoic husband so excited - not even at our own wedding. He smiled for the entire 2 hour show and was more excited than a kid at Christmas - I know this might not sound like much but, trust me, if you knew my husband you'd be rushing to check the temperature in hell.

And as for the encore - remember the rotten people - who, even in light of the amazing show that turned even my hardened husband into a singing-along, jumping-up-and-down, screaming fan, the "fans" that stood there, barely clapping or showing any emotion? They didn't leave. For the first-time in my concert-going history, I stood there in awe as not a single person left. The arena remained packed - full of people yearning for more.

By the end of the concert I was convinced that if we ever have children, we'll throw all of your names in a bucket and pull a winner. Hell, even if my kid wound up being dubbed Gordon Sting, at least I'd know he was in good company.

Thanks guys.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

On Friends and Fiestaware

A few weeks ago I met up with a friend who decided to travel to the big A-T-L for her and her fiancee's birthdays. Over 3 years have passed since we'd seen each other but, as so often happens with good friends, within mere seconds we were back to talking as though no time had passed. It was wonderful - gabbing about jobs, wedding planning and running (she was my long-distance training buddy for the marathon I ran before my 30th birthday). But there was also a tiny part of me that was so very sad - I realized just how much I missed her in my life and how much time had gone by without seeing this good friend with whom I share so much in common.

At some point in the evening the discussion turned to one of my favorite things in the world: Fiestaware. I fell in love with the multi-colored plates years ago when a neighbor ordered them through the JC Penney catalog; I watched as she opened the boxes and pulled out color after color: pink, yellow, blue, orange... I was smitten.

When registering for our wedding, I knew I wanted Fiestaware but, my husband wasn't so keen on the idea of multi-colored plates. We went back and forth - first two colors, then three and finally we settled on four colors: persimmon, cobalt, sunflower and white.

I was excited to finally get my Fiestaware but felt somewhat incomplete with only getting four colors - it is my firm belief that, although awesome even in four colors, Fiestaware really shines when there are tons of colors littering the cabinet. I yearned for the additional colors. "Look baby, Fiestaware! See how great the colors look all stacked up together?" I'd say when seeing it stacked up at restaurants. And although I pined for all of the colors, it was the turquoise that I wanted with a burning desire.

The turquoise Fiestware is that perfect shade of turquoise - it reminds me of my grandparents' kitchen complete with original (which with the latest trends could now be dubbed 'retro') 50's style cabinets and terrazzo floor. I kick myself for not getting it as part of our registry and the turquoise dishes have remained on my wish list for just about every occasion for the past 5-plus years.

While dining with my friend Anna, we discussed her choice of colors: tangerine instead of persimmon, no rose, and definitely my beloved turquoise. "By the way, they're retiring the turquoise," she commented in passing.

My throat began to close up and my mouth became dry. "What? Retiring? Turquoise?"

I reached for my blackberry eager to verify this rumor and, if proven valid, to immediately order my dishes. Unable to find any discussion of my favorite color being discontinued, I gave up on adding one more color to my collection - that is, until a few weeks later.

Last weekend, I played on my laptop while my husband watched SportsCenter for the 30th time that day. Hearing the click-click of my keys, my husband looked up to take a momentary break from the trance of Stuart. "Did you order that turquoise Fiestaware yet? You'd better get it now before it's discontinued." And that was it - back to his daily Stuart sermon.

I practically dove for my wallet and, before the next commercial break, my fingers, so adept at typing in the Homer Laughlin website address, had already ordered my very own 16-piece set.

And to you Anna - I'm eternally grateful.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Things You Do For Love

I did manage to use my sewing machine this weekend and, even better, I finished up a present for friends who will be in town for the next few weeks. I blame the belated nature of the gift (their son was born in February) on the fabric - each time I see it, I feel my eyes beginning to melt and my hands start to burn. But, since my friend was some big-time basketball player at Auburn, I had to make sure his son had an appropriate present.

Instead of the regular 'taggies' that I've made for several friends at their request (as much as it has killed me to do so since - although I know kids love them - I find the whole concept of them (and the whole 'patented' idea) silly), I went with sports-themed ribbon and, as always, made sure it was backed with something super soft.

The Auburn applique was an afterthought (so much so that I had to run to the store to buy 12-month onesies because I was quite certain that the 3-month sized stash I have wouldn't work for a 5-month old son of a basketball player. After a few false starts, I stuck a little tear-away interfacing behind the applique and Bam! Talk about night and day - where has that stuff been all of my life? I definitely recommend using interfacing when doing applique if you, like me, have a less-than-perfect, slightly finicky machine.

Although I was excited to finish the present and to give it to friends, more than that, I'm just happy that damn Auburn fabric is out of my house.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Proverbial End of the Tunnel Light

To say that life has been busy would be an understatement - big things going on in all areas of my life and some big changes have certainly made things fun. Slowly I'm regaining my footing: getting more than 3 hours of sleep a night, making my way through the magazines that have piled up in the corner beckoning me to pour a glass of wine and spend my evening pouring through them, and making it outside to enjoy for some long exhilarating summer runs.

And, although my sewing machine has been lonely for the past few weeks, at least I've managed to play in my craft room a bit. Inspired by the beautiful lights at Bright Light Little City, a few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at making my own cocktail parasol lamp.

I loved the warm light the, well, warm-colored umbrellas cast so I unfolded what felt like hundreds of the infamous tiny yellow, orange and red cocktail accessories and, on a Sunday afternoon, between laundry and grocery shopping, found time to glue them to a self-adhesive lampshade.

I'm not going to lie - it's not perfect. There are spots of white where I failed to completely cover the shade (especially toward the bottom when I ran out of yellow) and I found the glue difficult to work with. But, at the end of the day, when I flip the switch, I'm pretty darn excited with my new project.

Now if I could just find some time to use that sewing machine of mine...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

On forgetfulness

Last year I spent every spare minute of November sewing. After work? Sewing. Between bites of turkey? Sewing. While everyone else was at the mall for Black Friday? Sewing. My back hurt, my arms hurt, my mind hurt. But, I grew excited as I watched as the bedding sets, burp cloths and blankets pile up and, for the first time since I started my tiny little business, I had a serious inventory stash.

Then, on the first weekend in December, for a few hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I set up my table in a perfect sunny corner, put on a smile and manned my craft booth. And, although I'd been up until 4 am the night before, the thrill of being surrounded by other crafty people gave me the adrenaline I needed to get through the long day.

I had a great day but, at the end of it, I swore I'd never do another craft fair. The business was great and the experience was exhilarating but trying to manage a more-than full-time job and prepare for a show was just too much.

When I ran my first marathon a few years ago I made the same proclamation. I spent a good portion of the last 5 miles of my marathon pissing and moaning repeatedly to my husband. "This is asinine - why in the world am I doing this?" I groaned between strains of "I don't ever need to do this again. NEVER. EVER. AGAIN."

But, when I hit mile 26, the tears started flowing. I realize that's not much coming from me - the woman who cries at everything - but there was something about the experience that was completely awe inspiring. It was miserable and awful yet also amazing - all at once.

When talking with my neighbor a few days after the marathon about which race I'd do next, she made the perfect comparison: running a marathon is like childbirth. When you're in the middle of it, you're so miserable that you swear you'll never do it again but, once it's over and you've forgotten about the pain, you realize it's one of the most amazing experiences. Six to nine months later, you're ready to do it again.

Apparently craft fairs are the same way.

I'd love to blame my friend Paige (an amazing jewelry designer with whom I will hopefully share a booth) for what may be the end of all free time between now and September but, truth be told, applying for the East Atlanta Village Strut Artists' Market was all my idea - she willingly went along when I insisted I needed a booth-mate to help share in the pulling-your-hair-out will-it-ever-get-done preparation and to keep me company during a fun but long day of booth-manning.

It's a fun, laid-back festival and one of my favorites (which is quite a feat considering I live in a town where just about every neighborhood has a festival). I just hope that if we get in, I can channel some of that laid-back East Atlanta vibe.

Wish us luck!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Welcome Note

Little Baby W,

Just in case they forget to tell you, before you were born, your parents called you ‘Cletus the Fetus’. I know it doesn’t have the ring of ‘Cletus the Fetus’ but I always thought of you as Baby W - I like that the W can stand for so many great words: wonderful, wishful, whimsical.

Months ago, when you were an itty bitty thing, your mom asked if I would make your bedding. She knew you’d be special and wanted to be sure that everything that surrounds you – especially the first thing you see when you wake and the last thing you see before you drift off into dreamland – is just right. As we scoured through fabric she knew what she wanted the minute she saw it: Elvis.

It might take a while to learn that not everyone is lucky enough to grow up with an Elvis crib bumper but once you do, you’ll know what a great set of parents you’ve got. They’ve spent so much time planning for you and are so eager to let you be who you are – not some cookie-cutter kid who goes with the flow. And that, Baby W, is way cool.

Old people like me like me sometimes have odd beliefs. Mine is that all of the thoughts you have while making handmade things are transferred to those items.

While making your bedding, I heard a song by David Ryan Harris – a song offering his son wisdom that sometimes brings tears to my eyes (if you’re a girl one day you’ll understand this; if you’re a boy, you’ll learn that crying is one of those things us girls sometimes do). When I heard that song, I said a little prayer that it, in addition to lots of love and tons of ambition, was in some strange, crazy-old-woman-who-believes-in-weird-things way transferred to your bedding.

Welcome to the world Baby W. You’re very, very loved.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Weekend Away

Sewing? You mean I'm supposed to talk about sewing on here?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) things have been a little crazy around here lately and I haven't had time to sit and enjoy that pretty craft room of mine.

Last weekend I met up with my college girlfriends for our annual girls' trip. Charleston this year - which, although I've visited numerous times, still charmed and surprised me. We, as always, had a great time - tons of great food and drinks, lots of laughs and the instantaneous fall into talking like old friends even though some of us haven't seen each other in a few years.

Each year work seems to go crazy the second week in June - just as I'm preparing for this trip - and I spend a few days wondering how I'm going to get it all done. I've often had the 'sitting on the edge of the bed, head in my hands, there's no way I'm going to make it' moments days before the trip but somehow it's always worked out and, the minute I've arrived at that year's destination, after being ambushed with the type of hugs that seem to last forever - the ones where you squeeze the person so hard hoping that the more you squeeze, the more love you can fit in - I know there's no place I'd rather be.

I'm lucky to have such good friends.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thank you, thank you and thank YOU!

I think I've found a new (and cheaper) alternative to therapy: flickr. Just post some pretty pictures and read the comments. Guaranteed to give you an instant ego boost!

The comments about my studio have been tremendous and just what I needed after a couple of very crazy days around here. Thanks to everyone who has sent me a note, made a comment or viewed the pictures. It's a great feeling to bust your butt on something and hear that others find it just as cool as you do - total redemption for spending Memorial Day surrounded by fabric scraps while my friends drank beer and played on the beach.

As I work in my new studio, I'm finding it just as functional as it is pretty. It's a joy to work in a space that's pretty, organized and usable. If you're considering a 'studio re-model' just do it - it will be worth it. I promise.

And, yes, as some of you requested - you will soon see some projects out of the new studio. There's just one problem (aside from my crazy travel and work schedule): I recently finished a big project that's a bit of a surprise. Unfortunately, due to that little stomach bug I had over the weekend, I couldn't delivery it to my dear, and very pregnant, friend Kara. Given a few extra days to work on the big surprise, I had to add a few more items into the mix.

Of course I'm horrible at keeping secrets so here's just a taste of part of the surprise. More soon - I promise.

Until then, sweet dreams of pretty, pretty studio spaces.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Something must be wrong with me because last night I couldn't sleep. Again, as with the Mai Tai's a few nights earlier, this is an odd phenomena given that there are few people who love their sleep as much as I do.

I tossed and turned all night and felt as though I were a kid the day before a big school field trip - the kind where you spend the night in your clothes because you're just that excited.

Maybe it's because I finished my studio last night. And, to say I love the space would be a gross understatement. It's totally inspiring to be surrounded by colors (thread, ribbon, fabric) and, although the amount of space in which I work hasn't increased, the functionality is so much better that it feels exponentially larger. I couldn't stop smiling last night - a big feat given that I'd had a grueling day at work.

Ready for some photos (including the horrible 'before' shots)? Just click on the photo to the left to launch the set - I tried to add lots of comments to keep you entertained. But I did leave out a few additional notes:

1. After seeing a friend's basement done in the perfect shade of turquoise about two years ago, I've been hoarding 'Tiffany blue' paint chips. That combined with all of the incredible turquoise studios I've seen lately made me really, really consider painting the room. But, my husband is a fanatic about painting - we're talking get out the tiny artist brushes and make sure the line between the molding and wall is exactly perfect kind of fanatic; that combined with the fact that the existing paint is still in great shape (Home Depot Behr paint is amazing - six years later it still looks perfect) and that I'm still quite fond of the color (very surprising for someone with fickle taste like mine), the room remained the same butter-cream 'Rotunda'.

2. Our house is small - 1948-type small. Since I decided to set up shop in the second of the two bedrooms on the main floor (our 'master' - if you can call our tiny room that - is the other bedroom on the main floor) the room had to remain functional as a guest room: which meant I had to work around a queen-sized bed and couldn't take over the closet.

I thought it might not be as much fun to work around those guidelines - that I might not get everything I wanted. I couldn't have been more wrong - my new space is perfect! Can't wait to put it to good use!

Saturday, June 2, 2007


I had grand plans for today. I'm desperately behind in my training for the race I'm running in just over a month so after dropping my husband off at the airport at 6:30 am, I'd planned on going for a long training run. I'd finish with my run just in time to shower and get ready for my friend Kara's baby shower and after the shower, I'd grab my friend, Paige, and hit a kick-ass local craft fair. For the perfect ending to my perfect day: drinks at a local wine bar.

But it all came to a screeching halt around 10 pm last night. I knew things were bad when I made Mai Tai's and mine sat, untouched, until the ice melted completely - an oddity for me as I'm usually the first to polish off a Friday evening cocktail. I remembered hearing some coworkers earlier in the day, "Do you think it's food poisoning or the flu?" they'd asked someone in their department. My stomach rumbled and I knew the answer.

I'm feeling much better but - to avoid any type of relapse and also, as I wish my co-worker had done, to avoid spreading this nasty little bug - I missed out on the shower, the craft fair and drinks. Bummer.

Hopefully I'll be able to finish all of the things on my to-do list tomorrow. Among them: putting the final touches on my studio and finally posting those after pictures.

In the mean time, I'm going to catch up on my magazine reading.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Home Stretch

Ever since we finished putting together the furniture for my new studio* I can't get Bon Jovi out of my head. I keep walking around singing "Ohhh we're halfway there...."

Thanks to the long weekend (most of which was spent re-organizing, trashing and making piles for Goodwill), I'm more than halfway there but I still have a few finishing touches before I whip out the camera and post the 'after' shots.

With all of the studio hubbub, I missed my Favorite Things Friday - but, alas, at this point I'd have to say my Favorite Thing of the week was, by far, Ikea. Where else can you outfit an entire studio - I'm talking 2 pieces of major furniture, shelves, and a chair and have it be aesthetically pleasing - for around $500?

Yes, it involves some manual labor as almost every piece will involve the use of an allen wrench and the old joke (Ikea means particle board in Swedish) does carry some weight, but when you think about what you get for the money - the logical carefully planned assembly, how sturdy it is once assembled and, even better, how the pieces don’t look like slapped together particleboard – as you sit there surrounded by screws, boards and pages of directions, it’s hard to complain.

Yes, I love Ikea - and my studio furniture has not disappointed. If only I could get it all put together and organized!

After photos coming soon, I promise.

*I must admit, I still feel odd calling it a 'studio' since it's really just a workspace in our spare bedroom and, let's face it, I'm no Amy Butler.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Life Lessons

life lessons

Yesterday, I sat down to do some finishing hand-stitching on an item someone purchased from my Etsy store. As I started, I sighed and thought, Man, I hate hand stitching.

Maybe it’s the fast-paced environment in which I spend most of my days – the environment that would frown-upon the fact that it takes 15 minutes - 1/8 of the total time spent on the project – to do something that makes up a very, very small part of the whole. Or maybe it’s my perfectionistic nature – the way I feel a need for things to turn out neater, more exact than the human hand can produce. Whatever the reason, I always dread the hand-stitching or finishing stitching that often comes at the end of a project.

As part of my middle school home economics class we were assigned a hand-embroidery project. After trying the embroidery a few times and failing to get the stitches exactly even, I gave up. I whipped out my mom's sewing machine, machine-stitched the felt patches and was done in 5 minutes.

When I took my project to class the next day I was proud: my surfboard pillow with its machine-stitched felt stripes looked nicer than most of the projects there. Little did I know I’d cheated myself – the project wasn’t about making a perfect, pretty pillow, it was about learning various hand-embroidery stitches. I'm sure I made up some flimsy excuse as to why I didn't follow directions, but it didn't matter - I failed the project.

One of the women who taught me to knit was very spiritual. She impressed upon me the idea that knitting carries emotions - that whatever you're thinking about when you're knitting is woven into the fabric as you knit it. "Never knit while you're angry," she said "unless you're knitting something for your ex-husband!"

I thought of those words as I began to stitch up the side of the dress. A wave of guilt washed over me. I was making a dress for a little girl – a sweet little girl who will wear it while she runs through the yard or plays on the beach – and although the whole ‘incorporating emotions into your work’ thing might be a crock, I wanted to be sure my dress brought joy to someone’s life, not negative energy.

So, I relaxed and tried to enjoy the slip stitch. And a funny thing happened. I didn’t hear anything: no voices in my head reminding me of all of the things I had to do, no phones ringing, no new email reminders, nothing. It was peaceful and, for the first time in a very, very long time, I was relaxed. Not that ‘the minute I step out of this massage and shell over $70 my shoulders will tense up again’ or ‘yoga class was great but what the hell am I going to cook for dinner now’ relaxed – a very calming, inner peace kind of relaxation.

I don’t expect to trade in my sewing machine for an embroidery hoop anytime soon but it is nice to know that next time I might actually look forward to those few moments of hand-stitching.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Change Will Do You Good

I took a deep breath.

"I have to go to Ikea to return some stuff," I started as I made notes on the weekend to-do list, a list I usually make and complete myself because my husband is often out of town. Knowing that my husband likes shopping about as much as a colonoscopy and that reorganizing rooms is a close second, I hesitated to bring it up during one of his few weekend days at home - but I also knew that I would need his help.

"While I'm there I also want to take a look at some furniture - desks and shelves." Silence: no reaction. I wondered if he'd heard me - if he realized I was mentioning two activities on his 'I'd rather paint my toenails pink and run around the neighborhood naked with my hair on fire' list. "I'm thinking of moving my sewing area into the spare room."

I held my breath and waited for the 'Why do you need to do that?' or 'Why don't you just wait until we build-out the basement?' response.

"I think that's a great idea," my husband said with enthusiasm usually reserved for a Dallas Cowboys touchdown.

To say I was shocked was an understatement – I was giddy with excitement.

So, I did what any good wife would do - instead of questioning whether he was ill, I immediately grabbed my purse and, before he could change his mind, herded him to Ikea.

Yesterday we poured through Ikea. We spent hours walking every inch of the store at least 3 times, trying to find an affordable option for moving an obscene amount of fabric, notions and other crafting junk from a large living area into an already overcrowded bedroom.

Some pieces were to big, others too small, most didn't provide enough storage, and none gave me the flexibility of having a higher surface (for planning and cutting – and therefore saving my already-bad back from surgery) and a lower surface (for my sewing machine and desk space).

It wasn't until we pulled out the white flags, waved them in the air and acknowledged Ikea-defeat that we saw it. We were almost out the door when we both looked at each other and immediately knew we'd found the solution. Wondering if it was just the buy-something-so-we-can-end-it-already desperation speaking, we jotted down some notes, came home, re-measured the room, and jumped for joy upon realizing that our plan really was just as good as we'd hoped.

Last night and this morning I made copious notes - measurements, pricing, names - and got ready for the big shopping spree.

Today we went early, grabbed everything we needed and the boxes are now sitting in my 'old' studio (one - growing larger each day - side of our family room), tempting me - like presents to a child who wakes up before her parents on Christmas Day. The idea of having my very own workspace like the amazing spaces that have awed and inspired me over the past few weeks makes me completely and utterly ecstatic.

The 'before' pictures are loaded on the computer - just waiting to be a very distant memory. And I've freed up the memory card in anticipation of all of the 'after' photos.

Stay tuned - I can't wait!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Favorite Things Friday

I'm not going to lie, I love my things. I acknowledge that my affinity for collecting is in my genes - I have a family full of collectors and, although the amount of crap I own hasn't reached the 'put me on Dateline because I obviously have a problem' level, I do have a lot of stuff.

Every once and a while I come across something that makes me very, very happy and, albeit not all 'if I were stranded on a desert island I'd definitely take this' items, I thought I'd take some time on Fridays to share what I'm loving each week.

Growing up, my grandparents had mango trees in their backyard and, each summer, mango was a staple around our house. We had sliced mango, mango jam, mango jelly and, were it not so darn sticky, I think my mother would have bathed us in the stuff. By the end of the summer, I was so sick of mango that the mere mention of it made my stomach churn.

Over time my grandparents moved, I left Florida and, while mangoes weren't something that made it into my cart each week at the grocery store, I grew to appreciate their sweet tropical taste. On the rare occasion in which I felt the pangs of nostalgia, I'd buy one but, put-off by daunting task of slicing the soft fruit with its large, flat pit, it would usually ended up rotting on my counter and being thrown away with the brown bananas and sprouted potatoes.

I'd eyed the OXO Mango slicer in the Williams Sonoma catalog for quite sometime but the idea of spending $12 on something I'd only use a few times a year seemed excessive. However, last weekend, knowing just how much my mango-eating monster of my husband loves the bright orange fruit and after seeing a great review of the tool in the cooking guru's bible, when visiting my local crack dealer Target, I sucked it up and threw the mango slicer in the cart.

Best $12 I've spent in a very long time. I'm no longer afraid of mangoes. A quick press of the slicer produces one pit and two perfect mango slices.

My husband and I have been a big fan of Nantucket Off-Shore Rubs for a while. We bought the Dragon Rub on the recommendation of the butcher at Whole Foods and it has since been our standby for those quick, let's throw a steak on the grill and be done with it, meals.

A few months ago, we branched out and bought some other varieties including the Pueblo Rub. And while we love the Pueblo Rub, being as we almost burned off three layers of our tongue the first time we caked it on some chicken, we've been hesitant to break it out as often as the standby Dragon Rub. But, after stocking up on mangoes (thanks to my latest discovery) and looking for ways to incorporate them into each meal, when I saw the Pueblo Rub out of the corner of my eye earlier this week while cooking dinner, I knew exactly what I had to do.

Although I'm probably ruining the surprise (I've been bragging to my parents and in-laws about the awesome meal I'm going to make for them when they visit), here's the result of my big 'ah ha!' moment - my recipe for Robin's Polynesian Chicken.

Pineapple Mango Salsa

1 mango (chopped)
2 cups pineapple (chopped)
1/2 red onion (diced)
1/4 C cilantro (finely chopped)
1 lime (juiced)
1 small jalapeƱo (optional)

Mix ingredients and refrigerate.

Grilled Chicken

Mix 1/2 quart buttermilk with 1 tsp Pueblo Rub and 1 tsp salt. Trim visible fat from 1 - 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts and marinate in buttermilk mixture overnight.

Rinse buttermilk from chicken breasts and pat chicken breasts with paper towels; Discard buttermilk mixture. Rub chicken breasts with salt and Pueblo Rub until both sides are lightly covered. Grill chicken until internal temperature reaches 180°F.

Serve chicken topped with salsa and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hot Child in the City

Each year when the weather turns warm I start to think about things like running through the sprinklers, the sweet sticky taste of mango and long evenings of sitting on the porch watching people play ring toss.

I grew up in Florida where the weather didn't differ much from spring to summer but there was one distinct difference: instead of being locked in a classroom we were allowed to roam free in every backyard within walking distance and splash for what felt like forever in our neighbors' pools.

When I was very young, before central air-conditioning was the norm and when my parents didn't have the money for huge electric bills, after our baths at night, my mother would dress us in nothing but our underwear (Wonder Woman in my case, Spiderman in my brother's). Later, at night after we slipped on our jammies, we'd huddle up in our parents’ bedroom - the one room in which they'd run the wall-unit air-conditioning – and all snuggle in bed together. In the morning, using sheets, comforters and pillows, we’d pitch a tent in their bedroom and watch cartoons while we ate our breakfast, waiting for our friends to beckon us from our house for a day under the Florida sun.

Those days didn't last long - eventually I got older and realized that 'big girls' don't walk around in just their underwear and my parents eventually installed central air-conditioning at which point my brother and I were relocated to our own bedrooms for the night. But, the memories are some of the fondest of my childhood.

Maybe it’s just a desperate attempt to back some of those memories but I've been really into experimenting with girls' dress patterns lately - the really open, airy kind; the kind you could just slip on over a diaper or that pair of underoos. The kind of dresses that would be just as comfortable as if wearing nothing at all. The kind that would be perfect for those, to steal the immortal words of Richard Marx, endless summer nights.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And so it begins...

Although this isn't my first venture into the blogging world, it's taken me a while to dip my foot into the pool of crafting blogs. The idea of taking photos, loading them to the computer and managing numerous applications was enough to make me flounder and, to continue the analogy, drown in the deep end.

But, things have changed since I first started blogging - it's no longer necessary to edit your own html, host your own images, and figure out how to make all of the different programs you use talk to each other.

Thanks to the proliferation of blogging, posting with pictures is as easy as clicking a few buttons. And to that I say, Bravo!

Here's Coltrane - he's very excited about my blog because it means more photo shoots (and, consequently, more treats.)

Looking forward to sharing all of my projects with the crafting blog-o-sphere. The swimsuit is on, the floatees are off and I'm ready to make a big huge, splash-everyone-in-sight cannonball jump!

Here we go!