April 23, 2009 § 3 Comments
I spend a lot of time searching for some sort of inspiration. Whether it’s a tutorial or a photo or a story or a song like I Really Like To Eat Potatoes, or something that reminds me of my childhood, my family, I never know what’s going to send me off on some tangent. I mean, really. If you can read What My Kids’ Art Says for five minutes without laughing, there’s something wrong with you, big time, and I weep that you cannot be fixed.
I am continually inspired by The Pioneer Woman, not only because of her talents as a writer, a mother, a cook, a hostess, a wife, a mother, but because her site offers something different in a sea of blogs and journals (which are also great). The site design is so clean and enticing that it almost seems like trickery, the way you click on one feature and see links to three other things you want to read. The pictures and quotes and testimonials keep you meandering from story to story until your husband says “ARE YOU COMING TO BED OR WHAT?”.
I’m also 100% in love with the humor, dog anthropomorphism and brilliantly creative mind of Lollychops, whose stories of her journeys through art and craft are real, hilarious and down to earth.
Sometimes (usually) I just like to waste time as I wait for the next time I get to eat. That’s where websites like AnimalStacks! come in handy. Do you love animals? Do you love seein them all in a big pile or standing on top of each other like the brementown musicians? Then I have to insist that you visit and bookmark this blog and send in your submissions. It’s a new, burgeoning little web phenomenon and we all need to keep it alive!
Other times I stumble across something that is inspiring in its mission, and so clear and beautiful in that mission that I hate to see it go unnoticed. When I was pregnant, I was very afraid that I would have Post Partum Depression. Not only did my mother suffer from PPD, but I’ve had depression and anxiety since around July of 2000; and the high expectations I put on myself (and frankly my baby) when I finally became pregnant in 2006 made me wonder if I was setting myself up for failure. I prepared myself, reached out for help and watched for the symptoms of this quiet, unspoken tragedy and got through my first months of motherhood with great success.
I pray for those who don’t find success as easily, and I applaud near:far, a simple, helpful, visually soothing blog that follows the lives of two women, two friends supporting each other through their PPD. Watching them find lifelines in the tiniest thing, working, straining toward happiness makes me want to stand up and cheer for their bravery and strength, for every tiny triumph. DON’T EVER be ashamed of asking for help. It doesn’t have to be post partum depression. It doesn’t have to be motherhood. Whatever is hurting your heart, your soul, whatever is keeping you from waking up smiling, looking forward to the life you’ve been given…work through it. It’s hard work, it hurts. But I guarantee you’ll work through it easier if you don’t do it alone.
At lunch today I went to my usual restaurant, sat in my usual seat, eating my usual soup when I saw a blur of white in my peripheral vision. Outside the building, a group of at least thirty people were dressed completely in white, with white scarves tied around their heads, hiding their hair. Their make up was almost scary, but mostly clownish, black, white and red, outlining their huge, exaggerated expressions. Each troupe member held a paper mask on a stick, a blown up black and white photo of what looked like “typical fifties family members”. Some were children, some were smiling, Donna Reed like mothers, some were proud fathers with neat haircuts. The walked by in a single file, singing I believe, although I couldn’t hear them.
Beside me, not even two feet away, two people sat engrossed in a serious business conversation while simultaneously checking facts and figures on their blackberries. Did the white blur catch their peripheral vision? I don’t know. But it amazed me that such a spectacle could exist unnoticed only yards from their faces. Had they just turned their heads slightly, lifted their eyes for a moment to think, or took a break from their meeting, what a story they would have had.
But what about me? The White Parade marched by slowly, for more than thirty seconds. It would have been no skin off my nose to say “hey look”, to share that little shot of bizarre in a day of Chicago boring. There’s great stuff everywhere – meaningful, inspiring, helpful, shocking, hilarious, that can make our lives just a touch better. Sometimes all we have to do is look up, or learn how to share.
April 15, 2009 § 2 Comments
Every once in a while I go crazy. More often than not I stay that way for months and months. But seriously. I like to tell myself and others, that I am not a materialistic, shallow, dog in the purse shopaholic. I like to think that I am secure in my knowledge that in the end, the great earrings I want from Target for 24.00 won’t mean anything and that I’ll really just treasure the memory of a night at home eating plain rice, saving money. But then I realize that I have to be honest with myself and admit that I believe with all my heart that my life and the lives of those around me would be vastly improved by the acquisition of a hammock.
The hush hush word on the street is that we will be moving this year to a home with a pool and an expansive, tree covered patio. My husband has been informed that our first purchase after moving into said home will be a hammock. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to the womb like feeling of laying in a hammock and having it curl and bend up around you, swinging JUST A BIT in the breeze. And if you have a comfy pillow and blanket and you can fall asleep? Well, gosh darn it son, you’ve got yourself an afternoon! [In fact, if I may divulge little secret ‘ultimate dreamworld fantasy’ of mine, I’d have to say it would be to have a hammock installed inside my home, thick with padding and pillows and blankets, that i could camp out in and watch t.v. or read or sleep for hours, days, WEEKS on end.]
But wait, what happens when your nap is over, you’ve taken a swim, and the cicadas come out while the sun goes down? What do you do when the sky goes from brilliant crayon blue to pale peach and lavender, the first stars appearing like pin pricks behind the trees? THAT’S WHEN YOU HAVE YO’SELF A CAMPFIRE!
I think it says something about my astrology-stuff that as much as I love water, I love fire. I am FASCINATED by fire. I love to just stare at it. Nothing brings me to a more zen like quiet happy than sitting with friends around a roaring fire. I love the smell of it, the flickering colors from white to blue to yellow to orange. I love how spent coals ripple with heat, how flames run over logs almost like water. In a dream world I’d live in a Mountain Lodge on a small lake with a large stone fireplace, open on two sides, where I could write books and “get to fixin’ supper before the boys get back from the cattle drive” or something like that. Note to self: Do they drive cattle through the Adirondacks? Research, edit, amend dreams. And so the husband has been informed that the SECOND purchase upon moving to the new house will be the self contained outdoor firepit around which we will gather and sing songs of comfort and joy.
But all of that is in the future…months, seasons away. If I know what you’re thinking it’s, “but what can I buy you TODAY, Jess?”
So here. I’ve been packing my wist with jewelry even though I rarely spend more than 5.99 on Cherokee earrings at Target. If you don’t have a Wist I highly recommend it, particularly if you’re someone who finds the receiving of wonderful gifts to be an important part of a delicious breakfast. Its like an Amazon wishlist without the homophobic bias and you’re not restricted to only one website’s items. This ring from Plum & Sage called out to me in a little tiny fairy voice and batted its eyes at me in a coy, fairly inexpensive way.
Ever since I was hugely and almost obscenely pregnant, my fingers have been irreversably embiggened, and my original engagement and wedding band don’t fit. I call this a “pregnancy metamorphosis”, you may call it “unfettered weight gain”, as long as you don’t say it to my face. I’m sensitive. But I love wearing rings, so I’m always looking for a new wedding ring that sort of speaks to me on an emotional level or has a big giant diamond on it. Brian bought me a gorgeous ring from Pandora for Mother’s day two years ago that I wore as a wedding ring for a while, but for some reason it my made my finger flake and itch and turn a unique shade of gray/green. Never a good sign. So I just throw this ring out there for all to see, with a little mention that Mother’s Day for 2009 is on May 10th! (one day after David Gahan’s birthday…these are the things my brain holds on to for dear life).
I used to make up wish lists all the time. Long, elaborate lists, very specific, detailed. For a long time in my tween/teen years I consistently asked for a Cockatoo for my birthday, Christmas, anything at all. I believe I also asked for a diamond ring many times, a ferret,a redecorated bedroom in Peach and Seafoam Green (a CLASSIC color combo in ’86). I honestly felt that these things would improve my bizarre (and constantly evolving bizarrely) life. Why, who wouldn’t want to commit to taking care of a loudmouth bird for seventy years? I get huffy when I have to take the dog out three times a day.
But these days, I find that I really can’t come up with things for a wishlist. Not because I don’t want gifts (OH MAN, DON’T MISTAKE: I WANT THE GOODIES), but because I’m really so happy with anything lately. I really am the easiest person to buy for. Remember that scene in Splash! when he buys Madison a gift and she just kisses and cuddles the box and says “It’s beautiful, I love it, thank you.” and then he tells her to open it? That’s me. I just love the whole process of gift giving as a construct…and so really, what it boils down…..
SCRATCH ALL THE PHILOSOPHICAL LIFE IS A GIFT CRAP I WAS JUST GOING TO WRITE AND LOOK AT THESE BIRD VASES FROM GRAHAM AND GREENE!:
Wow. THOSE ARE SWEET. I WANT I WANT I WANT. GIMME GIMME GIMME.
April 8, 2009 § 4 Comments
My life is all askew this week. I had a sick daughter over the weekend. Is anything on this planet more pitiful than a normally vivacious two year old slumped over in your lap begging to go to bed? She was so sad and so mucusy and even as I held her tight in my arms I knew: I was going to get whatever she had.
So the crud hit me Saturday night. I slammed the Nyquil and slept as much as I could but Sunday was a bear as well and I called in sick to work on Monday and slept almost fourteen hours. I am not here to make excuses, simply to say that a little shakeup in the order of things is nothing to lose our heads about. I’m feeling better, but instead of recipes and etsy links I thought I’d give you a sneak peek into some of my (cue reverberation) Works – In – Progress-s-s-s-s.
I’m a flitter. Unless I’m on a full blown tangent where all I can do is draw birds with chalk or make friendship pins for your sneakers out of safety pins and beads, I like to have a couple of irons in the fire (curse you corporate jargon) so when I get bored or stuck or uninspired on one project I can put it out of my mind for a while. Turns out everything I”m working on right now is embroidery/sewing related…so we can call this a ‘theme’ post if you will.
This is a corner of a little mixed media collage piece I’m doing. It’s going to be embroidery, felt, paint, and possibly paper once I get it all together. Of course it will feature my favorite motif: naked trees.
I think I made a critical error in doing the embroidery before the painting, but oh well…that’s art. Sometimes it looks like a big pile of crap. We’ll see.
I got sucked into the “first five people win a prize” meme on facebook, and I’m putting together what I think may be my first etsy product if it comes out cute enough.
I did a super close up of it because I do want it to be a surprise, but it combines embroidery, some patchwork, some aromatherapy and JUST A LITTLE DASH OF WHIMSY ::chortle knowingly::
And finally, my favorite, all for me, a little project that was going to be just a Home Sweet Home hoop to hang in my hallway. (Happy Hopping Holiday, Helen, Hey ho!). But I think it may become a patch for a pillow or a little hanging quilt.
I love how the little flower details at the bottom are coming out so I want to do some more “gardening” around the base of the house.
I’m also pretty proud of my latest ebay acquisition. After reading the April Martha Stewart Living article about decorating your house with Birds (something I’ve always loved. I love old pictures of birds, bird patterns, figurines…) I went right on to ebay to look for some of those old white porcelain bird figurines that she had set up in clumps on a side table. They looked so delicate and elegant and I KNEW I MUST MAKE THEM MINE (AT A COST OF LESS THAN 10.00) So here’s what I won for 5.00 (7.00 with shipping)
I mean, WHAT? It’s perfect! About six inches high, I have this li’l gal perched among my picture frames on the hallway bookshelf. I love her so much. I’m sure she’s nothing “priceless” or “collectible”, she has no markings to indicate that she’s from a specific ceramics place…but I love her nonetheless. Sigh.
Anyway, we will be back on track next week and I may have my very first tutorial ready! What? I know, it’s awesome.
March 25, 2009 § 3 Comments
WAAAT: For me, Easter really started when I saw the Crooked faced bunnies from Stitchface. It was at that moment that I realized I COULD BUY SOMETHING LIKE THAT FOR MY DAUGHTER FOR EASTER and thus enjoy it vicariously through her. And from then on, I started eating chocolate as a meal, lasciviously eyeing the Fannie Mae vanilla buttercream eggs at Jewel. Back when I was a kid (in the old fashioned ’80s) my mom used to buy my dad one giant buttercream egg. They were shells of tinted white chocolate filled with buttercream (read: frosting) and decorated with more frosting. Basically a fatty sugarball which is, coincidentally, my nickname. WELP, they don’t sell those giant eggs anymore…but the kiwi sized ones look just as tasty.
Anyway, enough candy talk (until next week).
Oh how I wish I could knit. I mean I can knit, in a straight line. I taught myself because I’m left handed and everyone who tried to teach me was doing it “backwards” to me and I was lost. Every time I try to read a pattern, I end up crying. I’ll never forget the little old lady at the yarn shop who said “a scarf? You’re making a scarf? Why not a sweater? You’d have to be braindead to not be able to make a sweater!” Oh yeah? Well pull the plug sister, because I have no freakin’ clue what “K2P12K4togd3turn3zgdw235–++1/2 1/4ant1,2,3,14 bind off!” means.
Precious. I spat on her.
I mean those little guys are what Easter Baskets are all about. Perfect for the ride to grandma’s house after church to go eat ham, your kids can put on a small puppet show before pie is served!
HOLY COW A MOLY! I can’t even adequately describe my squealiness at the sight of this li’l guy.
GOL DANG IT, SIR! That is a cute little bird and there’s no two ways about it. Melissa Sue Stanley is a new discovery of mine and I am enthralled by the fantasy, whimsy,detail and thought that go into each one of her creations. Go to her blog to read stories behind the walking houses and hills and eggplants she creates.
This is the beauty of shopping indie. You may find some super cute and super cheap knick knacks at Target, but do they come with a story of a mountain that gets up and walks around at night just to annoy map makers? I don’t think so. This is where art begets art, creativity begets creativity,and lest I start to sound like Leviticus, inspriation begets inspiration. Because I am not a felter or a crochetist. I am a writer, and now I’m thinking about walking mountains and houses with chicken feet, and who knows what will come of that? The answer most likely is a good long nap with dreams of chickens, but we don’t like to deal in reality on this blog.
OK, here’s a look into my psyche, and the psyche of my mom, sister. The name of this Fabric Bar sewing tape right here?
Is LITTLE HEADS. Let me tell you, Fabric Bar. You had me at little. I love the phrase little heads. I LOVE THE CARMAX COMMERCIAL WITH THE GUY WITH THE TINY HEAD. I love the guy in Beetlejuice with the tiny head. LITTLE HEADS ARE WHERE IT’S AT YOU GUYS. This sewing tape will be mine, and that right soon. I’m going to wrap my school books in it and dangle them as I skip along to school dragging a good stick behind me.
And when I saw THESE HOMEMADE STUFFY EASTER EGGS, I plotzed. I want to take sick day and go home and make five dozen of them. In reality town, I’ll probably make one, it’ll be as lumpy as Edward James Olmos and I’ll cry for two hours, but bygod, I’m going to do it.
But you know what I really want to do someday? And possibly this Easter? I want to learn how to make Pysanky:
I’m surprised none of the crafty mavens have attempted these beautiful easter eggs. Would I break fifty out of every 51 eggs attempted? FOR SURE. Would I grow impatient and end up just throwing them in the PAAS for ten minutes? Yep, but who knows…what if I am a Pysanky Savant just waiting to be discovered? What if deep in my heart, my soul is from the old country (Bridgeview) and I’m supposed to be cranking these out for the world to admire? These are the things I fill my head with when attempting a new craft.
So far, no savantism has been uncovered.
BUT NEVER FEAR! WE PRESS ON!
March 18, 2009 § 4 Comments
I am such a sucker for giveaways. Every blog I subscribe to (like…I’m not kidding, around fifty) has a giveaway every once in a while and I always get my hopes up about winning a cute softie, a yard of fabric or cripes, just a note that says “YOU WON SOMETHING”. I think you know where this is going: i’ve never won. I mean jeez. Even with scratch off tickets you win 2.00 bucks every once in a while. In fact, I’m considering (once readership is more steady and enormous, say 40,000,000 hits a day) hosting a giveaway open ONLY TO PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO HAVE NEVER WON A GIVEAWAY. TAKE THAT. But anyway, the point is Happily Handmade is a site you should look at and bookmark as they begin the gathering stages of a gigundous giveaway worth thousands of dollars in handmade goods that we all love. I’m salivating at the thought of receiving a big big big box of funsies.
I’m also salivating about these Blue Birds by Casalinga. They were featured in the April issue of Country Living and I seriously GASPED when I saw them. There’s a chance that we’re moving this year, to our very own “forever and ever home” and when I saw these birds I could picture them in the front foyer, welcoming guests with the blue birds of happiness. They come in some other colors (the white is really beautiful) but I’m all about this sort of muted french blue.
When I was a kid, I was hardcore into fan clubs. I was a member of the Archie Fan club, complete with t-shirt, but I never received my membership card, and really, if you don’t have that WHAT IS THE POINT? Membership cards are the reason clubs are cool. That’s why you need to march on over to Bring Pluto Back and print out your membership card while voicing your opinion on the gross unfairness perpetrated on Pluto, the little planet who never did nothin’ to nobody but got demoted anyway. Oh, it’s for kids? Yeah, I mean, yeah. I know that. pfft.
I’m one of those people who’s really into the “mental picture” of things. I love tradition and nostalgia and the “staging” of every day events. Like, baking is more fun if you’re using a heavy yellow ceramic bowl and wooden spoon, and your hair is tied back in a scarf and you have a litte smudge of flour on your face. Right? Because that’s what “BAKING” means to me. That’s why I hate writing on a computer. When I was in junior high, I had a TYPE WRITER. An electric typewriter, sure, but that ‘clacky clack clack’ and “zhhzhip DING!” of the return key really made me feel like I was writing a best seller when really I was writing an epic tale of a devious missionary who looked suspiciously like David Gahan of Depeche Mode. Fanfic: I was there before it was cool.
Anyway, that’s why I want this Antique Remington Typewriter from Ladies and Gentlemen
I can only imagine the look of pure joy on my husband’s face when I started clacking away on this typewriter at 7:00 in the morning on a Saturday, mug of coffee, sheaf of paper, pencils sharpened and sticking out of my hair (because that’s what frazzled writers look like).
Speaking of that, I finally started writing again this week. For those just joining the blog, I’m dealing with some hardcore life issues of losing my passion for writing. I’ve been trying to publish my novel for years, papering the walls with rejection letters, and for the past six months I’ve just…stopped writing. I had no ambition, no desire, no drive to write. For some reason though, on Monday I picked up pen and paper again (long hand is better than computer) and slowly, slowly…the joy is coming back. Could it be because of Spring? Perhaps. We’ll see what comes of the measly three pages I’ve completed.
Tomorrow I give you a hilarious peek into “Sewing Failures” as I bravely post a picture of a chair cushion I made last night that was grossy mismeasured and the seams look like I did them while in the midst of a grand mal seizure. But in the interest of fairness, I must show you te crafting FAILS as well as the WINS. Live and learn.
I thought so.
March 11, 2009 § 1 Comment
My mother turned sixty back on February 27th, and she casually reminded my sister and I back in December that 60 was a big birthday, you know, just in case we wanted to plan anything big. My mother is very much like me (or I guess, in this chicken/egg scenario, I’m like her) in that she’s always expecting a big surprise. You can imagine how depressing our lives are, always expecting some gift, visit, vacation, party, trip, prize, revelation. I’ve had ONE surprise party in my life, and my mom has had about three I think, but this birthday, we surprised her big time, by not showing up on her birthday at all, but sending an adorable little token from etsy, a handmade card and a video from her granddaughter saying happy birthday.
THEN. We showed up on March 6th. It was so great. My mother squealed with delight when her granddaughter greeted her at the door after work. We had a wonderful time.
The real challenge in all of this was finding the “token” gift that would throw my mother off the trail and also bring a tear to her eye with its symbolic-ness. I set Meredith on the search with me, our parameters set on “ETSY ONLY” and “NOT TOO EXPENSIVE BECAUSE I ALSO BOUGHT TWO ROUND TRIP TRAIN TICKETS AND $50.00 WORTH OF KAYAK RENTAL FOR HER”.
We both ooohed and aahhed at the simplicity of this nest of eggs from Blue Pearls. I am such a sucker for bird nests, nesting, nestling, I want to fill my home with bird nests. (Even now I hear Brian pinching the bridge of his nose, ‘oh god, not another collection’)
And of course, the Nest Oil Paintings series over at Drunken Cows really floats my boat, but they were way out of my price range for a birthday gift, and more MY style than my mom’s style. This one in particular is calling out to me, begging to be in my living room:
Finally, I settled on an adorable mother and child nest of birds from Fairie Bling similar to the one pictured here.
Of course in all my futzing and searching and hemming and hawing, I had like two minutes to get the package to my mother, but big ups to tizib, the creator/artist/muse behind Fairie Bling for helping me by packaging up the nest beautifully and shipping it priority mail and tracking it for me all week. THAT’S the kind of service, devotion and emotional investment you get when you shop handmade. I got news for you, Target doesn’t give a rat’s behind if your mom’s birthday is tomorrow, you’ll get the Giant Framed Clock that’s always in the housewares aisle when they’re good and ready to send it to you.
Cathe’s blogs (she also does Just Something YOU Made, which is just a blog of tutorials from readers) are quickly becoming my favorites to peek in on each day. Creative, simple, whimsical, thoughtful and fun. Stop by!
And of course in the spirit of families, motherhood and cuteness, someone directed me to the world’s best, cutest blog: Zooborns the cutest newborn animals from zoos and aquariums around the world. My head began buzzing and vibrating by the third picture, and when I got to the Fennec Fox, it just exploded in a pinata style rainstorm of glitter and cute animals.
It was good to see Zooborns this morning, along with a new addition to my Netvibes feed page Picture Is Unrelated, because I was feeling particularly heartbroken and homesick on the last leg of the trip home from Rochester yesterday. It was such a rejuvenating trip for me. I hate late Winter so much, so a little punch in the arm is just what I needed. It felt good to ask Mom “When’s Dinner?” like I always did, or to hear my father’s nightly wish for a ‘small piece of pie’ when there was no dessert forthcoming. I liked hearing mom and dad say goodnight to me as I read my book in my old double bed.
We were wiped out when we got on the train at 11:10 at night, and the two of us zonked out within minutes. When we woke up, somewhere near Elkhart, Indiana and the sky was the color of cigarette smoke, spitting out rain that sent up fog from the ground that sped by. We watched as farmland turned to trailer park, then to run down homes with boarded up windows and yards that looked like construction sites or junk yards. We sped towards Gary, through industrial mazes and a junkyard of smashed, gutted cars piled three stories high. The fog burned off and the trees and yards, what little there were, were replaced by the tangle of expressways and green highway signs signaling our entrance to Chicago. Graffitti covered every surface, people tramped through the mud and rain, waiting at bus stops, huddled inside their jackets, wondering what it all meant. I thought about Charlotte taking a walk with my father and finding three little pinecones to put in her pocket, or playing in the front yard with fallen branches from the pine trees by the door. Charlotte asked to go see Gramma as the train pulled into the station and I smiled at her and gave her a hug saying,
“Grandma’s not here right now, but we’ll see her in a few weeks. I promise.”
It made both of us feel better.