Friday, January 29, 2010

January Mini Print of the Month

For my first month of 2010, I was feeling the need for a bit of brightness, a dose of springtime, so I happily purchased this 5x7 print from Kitty Rogers. I first saw her work at Renegade Chicago before the holidays and have a few peony postcards that I purchased then on my wall already, and I think this will make a great addition to that room.

Just a reminder, as I did last year, I've committed to buying a print from an independent artist/photographer each month of the year—though this year I'm buying mini's with the plan to make a cohesive display of all of them together in the room where I do most of my sewing.

I'm participating in a blog it forward mashup starting next week, so make sure you check back to see what that's all about!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pick-Me-Up Prints by Slide Sideways

Each Thursday over on I choose a Food Blog of the Week. It's a great way to spotlight a blog that I've been enjoying and also spread the word about our increased food coverage. This week's post is on one part of the team behind Slide Sideways, a fabulous design duo based out in the Seattle area. I just love their whimsical and bright designs and that their primary goal with the items in their shop is to make themselves and us happy. I like that.

Here's a look at a few more of their prints, though I have to say that the first one on this page is definitely my favorite.

They also silk screen on sketchbooks and tea towels, as pictured below.

To see more of their work, head over to their etsy shop or their blog.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Patchwork Pillow Cover, Update #2: A Dilemma

So I finished the first pillow over the weekend and I'm not thrilled with it. I didn't have enough of my fabric to make the entire front (since I lost a bit for all of the seam allowances and didn't check measurements before I started- that's what I get for working without a pattern!) so I had to put in a border. I used some duponi silk that I'd gotten at a prop sale since I thought it was pretty, but now I just don't know. (Though I will say I like it much better in context there on my couch than I do when it's just lying on my floor.)

I started on the second pillow cover and took some shots along the way so when I finish I'll put the whole thing together as a real tutorial.

Until then, here is where I need your help to decide what to do next. Do you think I should:
1.) Finish the second one like the first one because you like the way it looks.
2.) Go to a fabric store and buy some less contrasting fabric—or something equally contrasting but more coordinating—and use it for the border and redo the first one (I'm not opposed to taking it apart. I like my seam ripper.)

I may not have told you that I'm notoriously indecisive so please (and thank you!) vote and help me decide!

Friendship Bracelets Inspired Jewelry from For Me, For You

I was making my way through the Poppies entries for handmade jewelry, so that I could vote armed with info, and I totally fell for these necklaces from For Me, For You. Here's a bit about them:
For Me, For You jewelry started in the summer of 2009. All necklaces are handmade by me, Kate Miss, in New York City. The woven necklaces are inspired by the friendship bracelets of my childhood and are handwoven with cotton thread, and hang from a brass chain. I use a mixture of vintage and new, antique finish brass chains. My drops necklaces were created to have a simple, everyday necklace that looks nice when worn with or without the woven necklaces.

I made a TON of friendship bracelets as a kid (it was my go-to craft for long car rides...well in between pestering my brother to let me use his Gameboy) and I love the modern interpretation of them in these necklaces.
If you haven't checked out the Poppies—an online awards event from the fine folks at Poppytalk, head on over, both to vote and to see a wonderful round up of artists.
Images via
For Me, For You

Monday, January 25, 2010

Baked Oatmeal Breakfast Club

The lovely thing about most of my weekends since the start of 2010 is that they have began on Friday mornings with a few friends and a little thing we call Breakfast Club (or Hotcakes, depending on our mood). We each take turns hosting and for a little over an hour we catch up—which is just the best idea I think I've heard in ages. It ensures we see each most weeks and it's just heavenly to start the last day of the work week with good food and good friends. And it means that our friend Bethany gets to take lovely food photographs, as is her way, like the one above.

Last Friday I hosted and I made Baked Oatmeal with Bananas and Blueberries (I reconstituted dried wild blueberries) and served it with vanilla yogurt. I had no idea you could even bake oatmeal this way, but it's healthy—oats, flax seeds, nuts, fruit, etc.—and it tastes like dessert. A total win in my book.

The other highlight of my weekend was using my new-to-me Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (it used to be my grandmother's). I made an Apple Cake on Saturday and then used it to make pizza dough on Sunday. I fully admit to being THRILLED by the new addition to my kitchen and I fully intend to make the most of it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Inspired Image: I Do Love from Dottie Angel

If I could put my desired state of being into an image, the textures, colors and components of this one from Dottie Angel (originally seen on Decor8) would be it.

And with that, I'm off to plan for my weekend sewing. I wish you all a relaxing and restoring two days and I look forward to meeting you back here Monday.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Q&A (and Gorgeous Studio Peak): Eleanor of e.m. paper goods

Name: Eleanor Reagh Mayrhofer
Location: Munich, Germany (by way of California)
Website/Blog/store :,
Facebook page,

Tell us a little bit about what you make.
I make printable cards and paper goods such as greeting cards, calendars, gift-tags, gift “coupons” (for home-cooked meals, babysitting, etc.) and bookmarks. I also have a line of printable wedding invitation templates, which I’m updating at the moment. The basic idea with a printable is that you purchase a PDF file which you download and print at home on your own printer and then fold and/or cut it to create the card or paper good.

How did you become interested in creating paper goods?
My Dad is a letterpress printer, so I practically grew up in his print shop around paper, type and book arts. As a little girl I never wanted anything to do his ‘yucky, dirty print shop’, but life is funny and I ended up going to art school and studying graphic design—and now really like being in his yucky, dirty print shop. My first job was doing book design (I now work in the internet industry) and I liked the immediacy of doing covers and enjoyed working with typography, layout and imagery. I don’t have a lot of patience and can get bored with a design pretty quickly, so book design was perfect because of the quick turnaround. I found cards to be the same way. About 15 years ago a good friend of mine and I decided to come up with a line of wedding invitations under the name e.m.papers. We were pretty young and not entirely serious, so we never really got the business off the ground. In the time since, I got into the habit of designing last-minute birthday or holiday cards and printing them out right before leaving for a party. A couple of years ago I realized how that the tools to instantly set up a home business have become completely accessible to the average person – all of which supported the idea of re-animating e.m.papers as a downloadable card business.

How would you describe your style?
Evolving. One of the other reasons for starting this was to have some sort of creative outlet. I work at a big Internet consulting agency and my job has morphed from being a screen designer working on large corporate websites to doing internal methodology development. I rarely design at work anymore, and when I did, I often had to work within the constraints of an existing brand. In may ways I feel that I am still finding my own style and voice. That is part of what makes e.m.papers fun for me. It is my show. I can design things that appeal to me, without any external constraints, and watch my style evolve. If I actually sell stuff, even better!

What's involved in your design process?
Some designs start and end on the computer, I really like to futz around with type treatments and see what happens. Other times I’ll do some layout sketching on paper to flesh out a concept and/or do some drawing and scan it in and modify it in Photoshop or Illustrator. I tend to print things out, and let them hang out on my whiteboard awhile, as it can sometimes take me a few days to figure out if I like something or not. I’ll design something with a particular type of paper stock in mind, like craft paper.

Where do you do your work?
My husband and I live in a one-bedroom with a huge amount of hall space. So we converted part of the hallway into a work area that we share (but that I mostly dominate).

Have you had any mentors along the way?
My Dad’s love and respect for traditional typography has no doubt influenced me. I’ve worked with a lot of art directors but the only real mentor I had was the principal and art director (John Miller) at the book design agency (which was then called Big Fish) who taught me a lot not only about design, but how to successfully run a small design agency.

What's a range of time that some of the things currently in your shop take you to make?
Sometimes I’ll sit down with no real idea in mind and create something great in an hour. Other times I’ll have what I think is a great concept, work it out on paper, take it to the computer fool with it for weeks, abandon it, come back to it a year later and mess with it some more until it feels finished (or abandon it for good!)

Where do you find your inspiration?
It’s hard not to be inspired by all the great stuff I see on the blogs these days. In fact, sometimes I try and stay away because I feel I can get over influenced by what I see and like, and it can unconsciously slip into my own work. I love spending time in art-book stores, I always leave with what feels like millions of ideas. I really get a lot from walking around Munich – everything from old signage to cool window displays often get my imagination going.

How is the handmade/indie craft scene different in Munich than in the states?
From what I can tell, handmade and craft aren’t so much of a scene or novelty here, mostly because it never got lost. The trades and the trade system is alive and well here. While in school you have the option to either go to University or pursue a trade through established, respected schools. One can professionally pursue anything from baking to sewing to jewelry making. I regularly visit small individual or family owned bakeries or jewelers, seamstresses or hat makers that have small storefront shops. They all have their “Meisterbrief” (which is like a diploma) hanging on the wall. So I get the feeling that less has been lost here than has been in the states. Most of the women my age also know how to knit and sew (well) as a matter of course and have always ‘bastled’ (done crafts) - even if they work at internet agencies. Many of them found my enthusiasm as I rediscovered these ‘lost handmade arts’ sort of amusing.

Is this your fulltime work?
‘Jein’ as we say in Germany. Yes and No. I am on a 9 month leave of absence from my corporate day job right now. I recently married and my husband and I are going to travel, and I also wanted some time where I could solely focus on this work (rather than do it on the side on evenings and weekends.) I hope to get some structural things set up before I go back (like moving my store to a new platform, creating a baseline of products for a European audience and updating my wedding invitation line.) I am able to do a lot of maintenance and some product development and marketing on the side, but I find it very had to get things done that take a concentrated effort over a long period of time while also working my day job.

P.S. For those of you who make up my close friends and family, you might be seeing one of these Valentine's in the mail soon :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Patchwork Pillow Cover, Update #1

The last time I was in NYC, I went to Purl and bought a yard of this lovely fabric with the intention to make myself new throw pillows for my sofa (which is a grayish/sage green). I started on them last weekend and am loving the progress so far. Now, given that I am not using a pattern and just basing it on the style of some pillows that Denyse Schmidt made, it will take a little problem solving when it comes to getting the exact size right. But I just love how cutting a square into strips, then cutting them into other sizes simply based on my preference is so transforming. I'll keep you updated as I go along with these, trying to share the how-to when I can.

(Just a note on the picture- this was much brighter when I uploaded it, so I apologize that it's sort of dark. But I guess that's to be expected when I'm relying on natural light in Iowa in January.)

Earrings by Tarandip of The Dimpled

I am loving these earrings simply based on how they look, but I'm sharing them with you because of the story behind them. They are made by Tarandip of The Dimpled who is a 19-year old student in Singapore. She started making jewelry as a hobby back when she was 15 because she and her mom love wearing them (and they have many pairs).
Due to their shared love, she decided to try her hand at making them, not as a full time job just yet, but if she has her way, that's where she's heading.
Here's what Tarandip has to say about where she finds her inspiration:
My inspirations mainly come from my mom. I'm Punjabi (Sikh), so in my designs I try to incorporate some Indian feel, though at time I still make modern pieces. Basically my ideas come from everyone— the people, the things i see on the road, etc. Once I get an idea, I make note of it and proceed to find the materials I need. In Singapore, it is pretty hard to find unique items
as there are limited bead stores here, so I spend like hours in my favorite bead store just looking for the perfect beads/charms that fit my idea.

Her enthusiastic response to my email was totally infectious so I hope you enjoy the look at her work today. You can see the rest of her amazingly inexpensive earrings and a few necklaces in her shop.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weekend Project: Kolaches

I had one of those weekends where everything feels like it's in its proper place. Mostly, this was because I was able to spend my weekend cooking, baking and sewing, which was a monumental gift after two weeks of dealing with back pain which prevented me from doing much of anything at all. My main goal was to make kolaches for Josh, since he's mentioned them often as something he loved eating while growing up.

Now, being that I hadn't had a real one, and that I wanted this to be a surprise, I felt a little out of my depth. But I remained brave...even as the dough didn't rise as the recipe said it would, and as I watched the dough rise so much while baking that it nearly pushed the filling out of the top (even though I put the amount of filling listed into careful indentations that I made in the center of each dough ball). And yes, the outside edges were also a little harder than they should have been.

But you know what? Josh was surprised and happy and even said that the prune filling tasted "authentic". And I got to use my new Silpat, which was exciting. Next time I make them, I'll try a recipe from one of Josh's Nebraska Czech cookbooks to see if it goes any better, I'll make them a bit bigger and I'll skip the crumb topping on top.

I also made granola; a dinner of skillet cornbread, breaded chicken, apple/pear sauce and garlicky greens; french toast with huckleberry syrup; and pasta with sauce and meatballs. Writing it out like that sounds a little insane, but this weekend, when I was simply grateful for good company and for feeling better, it was just right.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Inspired Image: DIY Packaging from Oh, Hello Friend

This image comes from Danni of Oh, Hello Friend and I have been in love with the entire set of similar packaging for about the past month. There is something about the simplicity of the color palette, the texture of the ribbon, and the neutrals playing off of each other that has been speaking to me. I also enjoy that it helps me see how beautiful packaging need not be complicated or complex, just thoughtfully pulled together.

Image via Oh, Hello Friend on Flickr

P.S. Happy new house day to Dan and Virginia!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Prettiest Infinity Scarves

I've been a little slow to jump on the infinity scarf bandwagon mostly because it seemed like I didn't even know about them, then all of a sudden I was given three in a loops-of-fabric deluge. But then over the holidays, I saw my sweet cousin Jaime and she was wearing one that I absolutely loved. Turns out, she made it herself and is making them as part of her new gig at Adorn in Philly, where she works with the very talented jewelery designer Sarah Lewis.

You might remember my mentioning Jaime when she did a big fashion project last year at school, but if not, keep in mind that she just graduated from college...

and I think she might have more creative energy than I've had in the past 5 years, which is a lot!

But that's a big part of why I love her and why I'm so excited to see what else she starts making in the coming months. Though for the time being I'm just going to keep looking at these images because the combination of textures and colors makes me very happy (plus I love the snowy background).

These scarves have all sold, but if you're interested in purchasing one or having one made, you can email Jaime at Adorn.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Illustrations by Claudia Pearson

Yesterday I posted about Claudia Pearson's year-long series of illustrated recipes—check out the image she created of a dish called Fuschia Mash—after seeing it on Poppytalk. Since then I've been exploring Claudia's work and am loving a few of the prints she has in her etsy shop. Above is her "All in a Row" print that reminds me of my old block in Harlem.

And here are two more of her food prints, which I especially like. Above is "Buy Local" and below if "Food for Thought". Nice inspiration for this week as I'm getting ready to eat the last of my winter CSA veggies lingering in my fridge.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Central Park Flower Cards by Sloe Gin Fizz

I got some extremely wonderful gifts over the holidays that I am just now starting to use and enjoy. I finally got a Silpat and pie weights, which have found a welcome home in my kitchen. I received a pair of delightful earrings by Sofia Masri (which I have been pining over for what feels like years- happy girl am I!), some wonderful books, and these tags and cards by Nicole of Sloe Gin Fizz. I saw her work at Renegade over the summer, but I'm even more excited about the products now that some of them are mine to use.
I'm actually thinking of using the tags in some sort of creative way as decor in my guest room/sewing room, so we'll see what happens with that nugget, but I'm eager to start sharing these cards with my long distance friends. They are of flowers from Central Park in NYC, where I spent hours walking each week when I lived there, so I love that they help unite my past and my present/future. Nicole's etsy shop is filled with many wonderful illustrated prints, so do check them out if you're in need of a little visual inspiration.

The Poppies: Time to Nominate Your Friends

The fine folks over at Poppytalk are hosting virtual awards called The Poppies. Today is the last day to nominate your friends, then it's time to vote! Here's more info:
We don't wish this to be a competition, however more an appreciation and acknowledgement of the handmade community; a light and fun process to celebrate the Handmade! The nominating will start effective January 7th, with nominations running through to Tuesday, January 12th at 11:59pm. Followed then by voting to ensure a TOTALLY democratic process. The voting of the finalists will commence Thursday January 14th through to January 20th at 11:59pm. The winners will be announced January 22nd, 2010.

Click here to find out about categories and more specifics on the awards!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Quick Craft: Fabric Rosette Cards

As I'm working away on a big quilting project, I need, on occasion, something smaller—a project that gives me almost immediate results. Since I needed two birthday cards, I decided to whip up some using the blank cards I received for Christmas. Here was my process:
1. Pull out one of the bins where I store fabric scraps.
2. Dig around until I found pieces that I felt like using, which in this case was a bit of the Liberty fabric that I used to make these window panels.
3. The pieces were in long strips and for some reason they had been stitched (I can't remember why), so I trimmed them with pinking shears, and used Mod Podge to adhere each strip to the upper third of the card.
4. Not satisfied that the strip was special enough, I used other thin strips to make rosettes (you can see the technique here).
5. I stitched on the flowers, admired my work and that concluded my quick crafting session.

Making both of these took about 10 minutes total, and given that I'm very pleased by the results, I'd say this was a successful craft.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Inspired Image: Snowy Forest

Taken during a hike over the holidays, this photo reminds me that snowfall can be lovely and magical (when it's not being frustrating and hard to drive in). An important thing for me to keep in mind here in the Midwest.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Few Things to Do in 2010

Since I enjoyed having a written reminder of my goals last year, I've decided to do it again. Nothing too lofty or serious, just things I know make me happy and I want to make sure to make happen. Here are a few things I'll be trying to make happen in 2010. Notebook and image above via Oh Joy!

1. Go backpacking at least once.
2. Spend one weekend a month offline.
3. Spend more time with my Des Moines friends.
4. Start a quilting project for myself.*
5. Read my camera’s manual so I actually know how to use it.
6. Camp in the Loess Hills.
7. Read at least one book each month.
8. Teach quilting classes and learn how to be an effective communicator in that setting.
9. Cook more in advance so I can eat delicious, thoughtful meals everyday. (I made a breakfast porridge of bulgur, millet and steel cut oats, with cinnamon, vanilla, coconut, dried peaches and cranberries for breakfast this week and it's been a total treat!)
10. Make pasta for friends in Des Moines.
11. Send one homemade card per month.
12. Get a library card.
13. Find ways to be as active as possible without triggering back pain.
14. When I do have back pain—which happens sporadically due to my three herniated discs:(— be patient and gentle.
15. Profile one woman each month on the blog who’s reinterpreting a classic crafting technique in Instant Heirloom posts.
16. Make kolaches.
17. Live in a house surrounded by more trees (my lease is up in late spring) and with a yard to grow some vegetables and herbs.
18. Make better coffee.
19. Find more inspiration in the details.**
20. Buy one postcard a month from an independent artist.***

*This is a holdover from last year. I have one more large project in the works and after that, I’m going to focus on something for myself.
**I’m not exactly sure what form this will take, but I’ll definitely be exploring this idea through my regular Friday Inspired Image series.
***I did this last year with prints and it has filled my house with so much visual joy. Partly due to wall space and partly due to cost, I’m going to stick with small prints this year and hang them all together in my guest room/sewing room.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Momma's Homemade Panettone

My holidays were filled to the brim with food—feast of the seven fishes, antipasto, egg noodles with white truffle oil, two kinds of homemade ice cream, trays of cookies, breakfast casserole, lasagna, the most amazing stuffed pork, and this homemade panettone. My mom seriously outdid herself.
Every other year of my life we've had panettone from a box, which is totally normal. I've never heard of anyone making it at home. I mean why would you when if you're Italian and you're preparing for holiday food, you've got about a 100% chance of being in a store that sells it. It seems to never go bad and you can eat it as it, toasted or made into heavenly (and rich) French toast. This year, however, my mom decided to make it herself.

I helped her find a recipe—we used the one from King Arthur Flour because we trust them and there were a ton of step-by-step instructions and photos—and she got her schedule straightened out since you can't really make it ahead of time, but it take a while to make. On Christmas morning we were so giddy about it and it was so good that my mom made two more batches before I left NJ. She even made some small loaves that are carefully wrapped and tucked into my freezer to ration out through the next month or so. I love that this has surely become a new family tradition and that I have a family so committed to an overabundance of yummy food.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mom's Quilted Wall Hanging: Completed!

In just the nick of time, I finished my mom's wall hanging! I actually didn't sew the hooks on until after Christmas, but otherwise it was totally done.

That's my momma, holding the quilt up so we could see how it looked on a wall (note, the wall it will actually hang on is pale yellow, and it get a ton of sunlight so it will look much warmer). All of the quilts I've made have been big-life-event presents, so this was my solution to make something for my mom concurrently with my larger projects. She was very happy with the results, which of course made me even more happy.

Here you can see the back and the hooks. I sewed four strips to the back to hit just below the binding at the top so that you won't be able to see the hooks or the rod when it's hanging. That way, as my mom wanted, it will look more like a painting than fabric.

I was the most nervous about this step, but I was really pleased with the way it turned out. And most of all, I'm delighted to have finished another quilting project that I know will have a good home.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Blogging: Holiday Recap

Hello! Well, I have to say that my week and a half blogging break (which coincided with a break from work and as much time away from the internet as I could manage) was fantastic. It's been months and months since I took time away from my computer and I truly felt the freeing effects. I expect that now that the memory of time offline is fresh in my brain, I will be trying to do it more often—even if it's just for one weekend a month. Very refreshing.
All of that was made even more wonderful due, of course, to getting to spend the holidays with my family in NJ. It was snowy when we got to the shore and Josh and I promptly headed out for a walk because it is a real rarity to see snow on the beach.

We walked most days that we were there, talked a lot over long meals that my mom had been planning for weeks and weeks, and I am fairly certain that I laughed more than I ever have over the holidays. I am truly thankful for my family and their endless attempts at word puns.

It might be a little unusual, but I actually prefer the beach in the winter. The town where my parents are is mostly a summer town, so the winter is amazingly quiet (apart from when Santa rides around on the firetruck) and deserted, in a good way.

Here you can see my stocking, which my paternal grandmother made for me when I was born (as was her tradition), which is hanging next to the one that I made for Josh. I ran out of time and didn't get to embroider his name on there, but I will make sure to do that for next year. I love that it was plenty big to fill it with treats and that it seemed to fit in very well with the rest of our stockings.

I'm going to spend much of this week sharing a few other handmade highlights from my vacation (which also included time in NYC and skiing in the Catskills) and also gearing up for 2010. Last year I made myself a list of 26 things I wanted to do throughout the year and I love how it motivated me to do more with my own two hands so you can expect to see a new one from me shortly. I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and were able to spend some downtime relaxing with friends and family.

P.S. Aren't you excited that I finally figured out how to make my photos bigger?! I certainly am!