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!