Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday flowers

Dahlias, in the tiniest of jam jars.

dahlias, jam jar
{dahlias, jam jar}

I've been playing more with my 50 mm lens lately. Shooting wide open (keeping the f stop at 1.8) gives you that lovely blur in the background, which is also helpful for distracting the eye from the chronically busy condition of our dining room table.

dahlias, jam jar, table
{dahlias, jam jar, table}

Interestingly enough, this is sort of how the world looks to me without my glasses on (I'm almost unbelievably nearsighted) - perhaps that's why I find it so appealing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mini banners for Halloween

I have a guest post up over at the Irreference blog which is run by Quirk books, the wonderful company that published Witch Craft.


I made some simple mini banners for Halloween - they're a quick last minute project and you can download the file to print out at home.

"trick or treat" banner
{trick or treat banner}

Hop on over and check it out. EDIT - I've also put a copy of the post up here, just in case the old link doesn't remain functional. Here it is!

P.S. Thank you to everyone who entered in the super short giveaway for Witch Craft last week. The two lucky winners have been notified and the books are currently winging their way to them. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reading, lately

Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin had the trifecta - intriguing name, well designed cover, Lauren's stamp of approval.


It seems almost redundant to say it was excellent, but it was. Lots of interwoven stories, done well. Good plot (as gauche as it may be to admit it in literary circles, I like plot). The writing itself is artful - almost unbelievably quotable. You know when you find yourself sticking post it notes all over a book because you keep finding sentences you love? That happens here.

Like this ... The simple things come back to us. They rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward.

And this ... Some people think love is the end of the road, and if you're lucky enough to find it, you stay there. Other people say it just becomes a cliff you drive off, but most people who've been around awhile know it's just a thing that changes day by day, and depending on how much you fight for it, you get it, or you hold on to it, or you lose it, but sometimes it's never even there in the first place.

Luckily McCann doesn't get so caught up in crafting those sentences that he loses the overall arc of the story. It's lovely, truly. I checked it out from the library, but I'll be purchasing a copy for my bookshelf because I'm sure I'll be wanting to re-read it soon. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lace tape

Crafting borne of desperation can sometimes be the best kind. There I was, sitting at my computer with $80 worth of Japanese washi tape in my shopping cart. Trying to convince myself that I'd been thinking about purchasing it for a long time, it would be so useful in so many places, the holidays are coming up and I'm sure it will come in handy, really it isn't that much money ...

On the other hand. $80. for. tape. That's kind of hard to justify. Yes, I could have picked a couple rolls. If I had any restraint. Instead, I made lace tape.

lace roll
{lace roll}

 I feel almost silly mentioning it, because it barely qualifies as a craft. Take some lace trim*, preferably about 3/4" wide and a variety that doesn't have large holes in the pattern (mine was mesh with embroidered designs). Get a roll of double sided tape (I used poster tape) - you want the kind with paper covering one side. Lay your lace out on a piece of wax paper (otherwise it might stick to the table) and then start adhering the tape to it, sticky side down, paper side up. Press down and smooth it out with your fingers, to make sure the lace is securely attached. 

lace tape
{lace tape}

Now you have a roll of lace tape. When you want to use it, cut off a piece, peel up the adhesive backing (carefully, so as not to separate the lace and the tape) and stick it somewhere. Press firmly to get it to adhere. I made a 12 inch piece to start with and I've just been cutting bits off as I want to use it.

I'm loving it, but in all honesty I'll probably still buy myself some washi tape. Just maybe not $80 worth.

*Olivia Rae asked about my source for lace trim in the comments, and I realized I probably should have shared it! I have a great collection of vintage and new lace trim that I picked up at a local fabric store that specializes in bridal fabric (Fabric Land, for those of you in the Orange area). Most of it is fairly inexpensive - some of the older ones I got were less than $1 per yard. I wouldn't do this project with anything that cost more than $5 a yard, because good lace is precious. If you need an online source, M&J Trimming is usually a good bet, although you could probably find better deals in person and you wouldn't get stuck paying for shipping. I think that this 3/4" Cluny lace trim would work really well and it's $2.98 per yard.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mini banners for Halloween

I don't do a lot of Halloween decorating but I love adding a few simple touches to the house, especially if we're having people over. This simple project doesn't take up much time and can be used in a couple of different ways.


You'll need:
The PDF (provided here)
A color printer
Plain white paper (8.5x11")
Card stock in your choice of color (8.5x11" or larger)
Spray glue (or a glue stick)
A small hole punch (I used 1/8") or a sturdy needle
String or thread in your choice of color
Chopsticks or bamboo skewers (if using as food toppers)


1. Print the PDF in color, on a plain piece of paper.

2. Glue the printed paper to the cardstock, plain sides together (I always prefer to use spray glue, but if it's too messy for you, a glue stick will work just fine)

3. Cut out the circles you want to use (three options are provided "happy halloween", "trick or treat" and "boo!")

4. Using a small hole punch, punch out two holes near the top of each circle. I didn't worry about keeping mine precise and it still looked fine. Thread your string through each circle in order, to spell out the phrases. (You could also use a sturdy needle and thread for this part).

5. Hang the banners wherever you'd like. I tied the ends of the strings to chopsticks and used them to fancy up a plate of cupcakes. For a more permanent decoration, I taped the ends of the strings to the back of an empty picture frame and leaned it up against the wall.

"trick or treat" banner


Spray glue is the best option when you're working with paper. It dries instantly and it won't warp your project. It is messy, so I only use it outside, and I throw down an old sheet to protect everything around me. You only need to spray one side of whatever you're gluing together.

When you're cutting out the circles, don't worry about being perfectly precise. The black border is wide enough that you can cut into it a bit without the irregularity being obvious.

The weekend, briefly

I was productive this weekend, determined to cram work, play or sleep into every possible moment. We tried to set a personal record and go see another movie (twice in two weeks after our one year accidental hiatus) but apparently everyone else had the same idea and it was sold out. We made up for it with some early afternoon two for one margaritas.

morning tea
{morning tea}

weekend mess
{weekend mess}

saturday afternoon margarita
{saturday afternoon margarita}

circe, contemplative
{circe, contemplative}

last of the rose hips
{last of the rose hips}


No one has stepped forward to claim the little pup (possibly because he has revealed himself to have more energy than a 5 year old on a sugar high and a voracious appetite for gnawing on books and furniture indiscriminately) so for now he remains under Circe's wing. She has yet to house train him, but she has taught him how to sit when asking for treats and how to get as dirty as possible while rummaging in the bushes (critical terrier skills).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday flowers

Thank you all for your sweet comments yesterday - I love reading your little stories. If you didn't get a chance to enter the book giveaway, get in there in the next few hours. I'll select winners sometime this evening - I know it's a short window of opportunity, but that increases the chances of winning for those of you who've entered, which is nice.

And there are flowers ...

tea roses, chair
{tea roses, chair}

Tea roses in a shade of orange-y pink that I can never resist. I have a rosebush of my very own back at home, one that I was allowed to pick out when I was a little girl, and it has roses of a similar color. I am prejudiced, of course, but I believe they are the most beautiful.

tea roses, close
{tea roses, close}

I frequently claim to not care about roses, but they pop up here rather frequently. I suppose I should amend that to say that I don't care much for the standard deep red roses. Or maybe I shouldn't say anything at all, in case I jinx myself and suddenly feel compelled to start purchasing them by the dozen, complete with accents of glossy ferns and baby's breath. You guys, if that ever happens, please stop me. Real friends would tell you if your blog was looking like an 80's prom date.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giveaway - Witch Craft!

I love fall in general and Halloween in particular, so I was thrilled when I was asked to contribute to a Halloween craft book. I was even more excited when I finally got to handle the book in person - the projects and photographs are gorgeous, and I have my fingers crossed that I manage to free up enough time to get through at least a few of them next week.

You can find Witch Craft online at Amazon, or in person at Barnes and Noble. Or you can win a copy here! Just leave a comment on this post and share something. Something you love about fall, or maybe the best Halloween costume you've ever had, or your favorite candy to get in your pillowcase. I have two copies to give away, so I'll pick winners on Friday evening and I'll mail books out on Saturday so you can get some crafting in immediately.

I'm happy to ship to my international readers, of course. Because we're so close to the holiday you might not receive your book in time, but you could always keep it for next year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Apple-sage-cardamom pancakes

We had some Pippin apples, which are the undisputed favorites in our household. I wanted them in pancakes but I needed to break away from the cinnamon-apple pairing rut I'd fallen into.

apples, sage
{apples, sage}

I asked D if he thought it was weird to put sage in pancakes. It was kind of a rhetorical question because the boy will eat sage in just about anything. All I wanted was a yes vote. You know, so I could include both of us in the blame should the product turn out inedible.

Luckily, it didn't. These might be my new favorites. The pancakes were hearty from the mix of flours, but the apples added a hint of sweetness and the sage and cardamom kept it interesting. I tried them with apricot jam and with maple syrup, but I liked them best with just a bit of butter. It was a very fall-ish breakfast.

apple-sage-cardamom pancakes
{apple-sage-cardamom pancakes}

The cardamom got added on a whim. It's a spice that can go sweet or savory, so it seemed fitting. I only have whole green cardamom, but I split the pods open and then chopped the tiny seeds over and over again until it was almost a fine powder. If you are one of those people who has a dedicated spice grinder in your kitchen, you could use it here.

You could add these apples to any pancake mix, although I think they played particularly well with the rye and whole wheat flour in my usual recipe. My pancakes were just barely sweet, which is how I prefer them. If you are looking for real sweetness, I would dial up the brown sugar by a couple tablespoons and maybe add a bit of extra sugar to the batter itself.
Apple-sage-cardamom pancakes (makes 4 - 6 servings)

2 or 3 tart apples, cored and chopped (we used pippins, unpeeled)
1 - 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup rye flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Toss in the brown sugar, sage and cardamom and stir for a minute or so, until it smells amazing. Add the chopped apples and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until they reach your desired tenderness, stirring every few minutes (I think we cooked ours for 5 - 10 minutes, until soft but not mushy). Take them off the heat and allow to cool while you get the batter ready.

Mix dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Whisk eggs and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Stir in the apple mixture. Cook on a large griddle at medium temperature for a couple minutes on each side, until golden brown. I always use a 1/4 cup measuring scoop to dollop out my batter - it makes the perfect sized pancakes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The last two weekends, not very briefly

You guys, I am totally alive. Thanks for waiting. I'm no longer sick, which is awesome. We're experiencing a period of cool weather, which is even more awesome. I turned on the bedwarmer last night. I may have jumped the gun, because I woke up sweaty and had to turn it off again. Included in this post, sad + happy dog stories, a movie review, lots of pictures of unrelated things.

We might have a puppy. Not us, specifically, but the family in general. One of the family crises the other week was that my sister lost one of her beloved dogs. NO ONE START CRYING YET. I'll spoil the story and tell you this: we found her. Thank god. Sis had gone out of town for vacation and the dog sitter accidentally let Joey out within 12 hours. So by the time they got home, Joey had been missing for a week. Only fellow dog owners could understand how frantic my sister was. Joey (short for Josephine) was a rescue dog, and she's terrified of strangers, so the chances of anyone else catching her were low. We blanketed the neighborhood with flyers and everyone spent hours walking around. Two days later, by random good luck, my sister talked to someone who'd seen her and then found her huddled under a motorhome. She's back and everyone is happy although I'm pretty sure we've all developed some extra gray hair.

What does this have to do with a puppy? On the first day of searching, someone called my sister and told her that she'd found her dog. Rena arrived, beyond herself with excitement, only to find a dog that in no way resembled Joey. Also, it was a male. And a puppy. She explained that it wasn't her dog and the woman (clearly not a dog owner) suggested that perhaps she had lost her dog for a reason, and this was the universe's way of giving her a new dog, the right dog. Very tactful, lady. Rena starts crying. Then the woman tells her that if Rena refuses to take the dog, she's putting him back out on the street because she can't be bothered with him. Definitely not a dog owner. My sister takes him (obviously), drops him off with my parents.

We have flyers up so that the real owners can get in touch with us. It might be terrible to admit but we're kind of hoping that he really was a stray and no one wants him. You see, Circe is in love with him. She's notoriously cantankerous with most other dogs, but this little guy has won her over. They play, constantly. He follows her around. She lets him snuggle with her when she's napping, which is sort of unfair because she gets annoyed with me if I try to pull that move. My parents weren't looking for another dog, but sometimes the universe sends you a dog, I guess, at least according to the dog hating lady. Even if the owners turn up and all we get is this week of puppy love, it's pretty sweet.

D and I saw a movie. That doesn't sound groundbreaking, but it kind of is when you consider that the last movie we saw was Up in the Air. Almost a year ago. We've been busy. I have a hard time making time for movies. I always have something I should be doing, and when I have free time I feel like I need to make the most of it and actually sleep. Also, movie theaters tend to stress me out. It's mostly the people. They are so unpredictable. You could get a weird laugher, or a loud popcorn eater or a woman who files her nails (that happened yesterday - luckily her humiliated companion convinced her to stop, after a heated debate). I also hate it when people clap at the end of the movie. The actors aren't there, so I find the clapping bewildering. I guess it's just a signal to the rest of the audience that you liked the movie, but who are you applauding? It seems so self satisfied. D says I'm unbearably weird and that his greatest fear is that I'll get even crankier as I age.

Anyway, we saw The Town. I loved it. Good car chases. Ben Affleck was not annoying. No one clapped when it was over although someone coughed and I thought they were going to clap and I got tetchy and D sighed. We'll chalk it up as a win.

baby puppy
new puppy
{baby puppy}

driving, driving, driving
driving, orange
{driving, driving, driving}



playing around
{playing around}

coffee, sunday morning
{coffee, sunday morning}

 Actual posts coming up this week, which I'm looking forward to. Food and probably a crafty giveaway included. Check back.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The weekend, very briefly

Okay, so it turns out that my low carb intake experiment may not have been entirely responsible for how run down I was feeling last week.

sick weekend
{sick weekend}

I have a wicked cold. So basically my Saturday looked like this, but with the pile of tissues mounting by the hour and with the added soundtrack of sneezing and whining - I rarely get sick and when I do I get vocally bitter about how it slows me down.

Sadly (and disrespectfully, in my opinion), the rest of the world doesn't stop when I feel out of sorts, so in addition to congestion, I'm dealing with a combination of various family crises and minor problems and a crazy work week, and I'm tapped out. Needless to say, cooking and crafting and general good life type things are in short supply at the moment. There are two weeks worth of CSA produce backed up in my fridge. I ate an apple for dinner because heating up a frozen veggie burger sounded way too complicated.

I'm taking at least a couple days (possibly a week) off  here to deal with real life. And then I'll be back, amped up for fall and hopefully sniffle free.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Friday flowers (early and rambly edition)

The tail end of the garden roses (I think), waiting for me at my parents' house last weekend. I arranged them, loosely.

garden roses
{garden roses}

They're so fully bloomed that they start to fall apart after a day or two and require careful handling. I didn't dare transport them by car, so I left them. Knowing they exist is good enough.

And I do know that it's Thursday, not Friday. Sorry if I faked anyone out. I feel a little drained this week and my mind is scattered and I don't have anything useful to contribute. Here are some random bits and pieces that don't really deserve their own posts but are taking up my head space ...

I'm trying to reduce the amount of carbs I eat this week as an experiment and I've discovered that I basically live for carbs. As in, if I know carbs are off limits for random snacking then I will just throw up my hands and decide I'm not really hungry, even if I am. Crankiness ensures. Note that I'm not crazy enough to attempt to eat no carbs at all, I'm just not adding superfluous bread and crackers to my day and even that is hard. Luckily it's just for one week. I'm a wimp. How do people do this for extended periods of time?

We had a cold snap! It felt a little like fall. So naturally my head starts spinning and it kind of hurts to have to listen to my inner thoughts because they are alllllll over the place. They go something like this ...  Halloween decorations - maybe I should do that this year. Thanksgiving menus - what new vegetable recipes should I try out? Oh, Thanksgiving table decorations - need to strategize. And then Christmas cookies! How far ahead should I plan out my baking schedule? I need to look up recipes and make a spreadsheet. Where am I going to put the Christmas tree? Maybe I can sew some new ornaments for it. When will the pumpkin spice latte come back to Starbucks? I want to make a wreath for our front door this year. I want to make pumpkin cupcakes for Halloween. I want to design a stamp to make some new holiday tags. I think our Christmas music collection needs some updating. I should go check out CDs. It's cold enough to start crocheting again - I should make a neckwarmer, a thick one with lots of bobbles. I should find some new slow cooker recipes. We should go apple picking soon. An apple tart would be really good right now. Oh my god, why am I not eating carbs?  My inner thoughts clearly need some wrangling because I'm having a really hard time focusing with all the racket in there.

Yes, I complain incessantly about stores jumping the gun on the holidays, but mentally I'm right there with them. The first sign of cold weather and I'm off and running. Which is ridiculous considering that the forecast for Sunday is eighty. nine. degrees. We're swapping our summer and winter comforters at least once a week at this point and I wish the weather would make up its mind.

I just find fall to be such a productive time. It's cozy inside and I'm motivated to curl up and work on big projects for hours on end. Turning on the oven feels comforting instead of death inducing. The only downside is the lack of light for pictures, but it's not a bad trade off. Is anyone else feeling the urge to push forward into fall/winter? I think I'm ready. Now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thrifting, lately

Please help welcome the newest member of our furniture family - the sewing chest!

sewing chest
{sewing chest}

I'm sorry the picture isn't the best, but it's raining here and there is NO LIGHT and lots of teeth gnashing and camera adjusting. Rest assured that she is much more beautiful in person.

vintage sewing chest
{vintage sewing chest}

I see sewing chests around sometimes* (my mom owns one too) but I've never felt compelled to purchase one. For some reason this one, with the curved handles and the dark wood, hooked me. She can live next to the couch and it will be a big upgrade over my current situation, where I dump all my materials in a plastic bin and lug it out and then put it all away again later. The drawers fan out on both sides, so there is a ton of storage space.

It was $35 well spent at the flea market, and it came with some remnants of the previous owner. She liked green velvet leaves, sweet little labels and 70s orange pom pom trim. If anyone needs some festive, shaggy pom poms, let me know. I'm allergic to the 70s.

* I'm not finding many options online right now, so maybe they aren't as common as I think. There are a couple available on Etsy currently, here and here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Arranging ...

I'm terrible about framing photos. Or anything, for that matter. I just never get around to it. There are always more pressing issues at hand, like sewing or catching up on Jersey Shore. D has finally decided to make our bare walls his personal mission. It all starts with newspaper silhouettes.

wall layout
{wall layout}

He's been working on getting some of our favorite photos and small art pieces framed, by purchasing frames from the thrift store and then spray painting them matte black. He mixed my Dansk pieces in, so they'll be both decorative and easily accessible again.

display wall
{display wall}

It'll keep changing as we add new pictures and pieces. I love it. Also, shortly after this photo was taken, I had a total freak out over our clutter. It's a constant battle for us, because I alternate between the urge to have a cozy house that incorporates all the special little trinkets we love (everything that you see in our house is something at least one of us loves - we are pretty brutal about junk) and a sometimes overwhelming desire to live in a museum-like house, sparse and clean and decluttered. There will probably never be a resolution, but we did have a small cleaning rampage on Sunday evening.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The weekend, briefly

Sort of dragging myself into the week here. Busy weekend with tons of driving, laundry, cleaning and weather that was all over the place - rainy, hot, sunny, cloudy, cold. I think we went through every single season in two days.

breakfast at urth
{breakfast at urth}

flea marketing
{flea marketing with my girls}

{family trip to the velodrome*}

{tons of driving}

*We're lucky enough to have a velodrome close by, so we try to make it out whenever there is a track cycling competition. Also, I think that photo was taken by D - we were trading the camera back and forth, but his pictures came out better than mine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday flowers

Delphinium are worth buying just for the name.

delphiniums, sink
{delphiniums, sink}

Luckily they are also lovely in their own right.

delphiniums, light
{delphiniums, light}

Lovely enough to convince me to share a rare vertical picture. (The obsessive side of me hates that vertical photos don't fill the entire width of the column, but I love that you can see the lip of the glass jar here - it's one of my thrifted apothecary jars.)

delphiniums, glass
{delphiniums, glass}

And to keep shooting as the light crept away and dusk settled in. The days are growing shorter.

delphiniums, dusk
{delphiniums, dusk}

They smell good too.