Friday, May 28, 2010

Inspired Image: Tara of Seven Spoons

Hello, my name is Tara O'Brady

You can find me at my site, seven spoons, and in the pages of UPPERCASE magazine.

This image comes from marthasnail's photostream.

It inspires me because it was the start of an experiment in abstract photography, which in itself is really rather nice. I think many of us forget to challenge our own creativity as often as we could. And, it appeared on flickr when all around me was grey and glum - that light, the blurred colours of tree and leaf, are filled with bolstering possibility.

I particularly love how the overall effect reminds me of trying to stare too long at the sun. 

It makes me feel like something marvelous is about to happen.
The 3 words it conjures up are warmth, forward, breath.


If you aren't familiar with Tara's food blog, Seven Spoons, please go check it out right now. Not only does she post delicious recipes with even more delicious images, but reading her thoughts on each particular dish is always a pleasure. Each post is a little journey and while I often don't know where we're heading when she starts a post, I'm always glad to go along for the ride. Just because I can't resist, here are some of her lovely food images.

She's like our very own North American Donna Hay, right?!
In other news, it's Friday of a three day weekend and if you're like me (or like anyone today, really), you're wicked excited about it. How could you not be? Three mornings to sleep in a bit and eat a lazy breakfast? More time to spend in the sun rather than behind a computer? Sign me up!
Growing up, Memorial Day weekend was always the start of the season at the shore. Much of my family will be heading down there to enjoy the beach and the boardwalk and so that I'm not too jealous, we've scheduled ourselves a little housewarming party. It's potluck, so I hope that our friends bring some goodies to share, but I'll be spending much of Saturday cooking and baking because I can't help myself, so I will meet you back here on Tuesday with a full report with recipes. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Watching Our Garden Grow

I got home from three days in nyc late last night and instead of doing my usual Thursday link love post today, I'm going to share some pictures from around my house. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the city (friends! family! shoes! Sex and the City 2 premiere, which you can read all about here), but it was Hot and I am thankful to be home in my quiet except-for-birds-chirping- house.

I was on watering duty this morning, so I had the chance to inspect the progress in the garden. More of the peonies have started blooming, which I am very happy not to miss. There are few things that I love more than pale pink flowers.

The plants in the raised beds are getting bigger every day and I am really excited about the prospect of going outside to pick dinner. We have two lacinato kale growing (we bought these as seedlings from the farmers market)...

A few heirloom tomato and pepper plants that seem to be doing well—the peppers look like they've grown about 3 inches since I last looked at them over the weekend. (In the background you can see our compost tumbler, which if all goes well will help us reduce the amount of trash we're curbing and give us much nutrition to put back onto our veggies).

Here are some beets, which will need to be thinned, but for now we are just loving the potential of them because there's a chance that the rabbits will get to them before we do—though we're working on a (nice) way of keeping them out of the yard.

And here's a bean (I'm not sure what kind) that I love because it grows so enthusiastically. We'll need to give this guy some support soon, but for now I am just enjoying how gangly he is. Be sure to check back tomorrow for a very lovely Inspired Image!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fabric Reuse: Wedding Tablecloths Turned Throw Pillows

You might remember my friend Virginia (and her wedding or maybe her quilt). Well she recently made some throw pillows using up some of the fabric that graced her wedding reception tables, along with a bit of other fabric that she picked up just for the project.

See how pretty one of the fabrics was on the table? Well, look how pretty the fabric is in its new home in the living room.

I just love that V gets to live with some of the fabrics that helped set the scene in her mom's backyard nearly a year ago.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Friendship Bracelet Making: 15 Years Later, I Can Still Do It

 First, I'd like to thank everyone who signed up for the friendship bracelet swap—we have more than 30 people on board and I can't wait to see what everyone makes!

Over the weekend, I pulled out some of my old bracelet making supplies (I used to have stacks and stacks of floss wound around those little white holders) and gave my old skills a test. Turns out that I, amazingly, actually do remember how to make the bracelets—and I would guess that it's been, oh about 15 years since I've made one. So that was a delightful surprise (I guess making so many really drilled it into my head!). I started making two, using two separate techniques, though both involve knotting in what I can only describe as being in the shape of a 4.

The two styles show above are the only two that I ever made using embroidery floss—though I did make gimp bracelets for a while, but that's an entirely separate topic! I'd love to hear how the making is going for everyone participating in the swap- are you remembering how to do it?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring Kitchen Table Staples: Rhubarb Sauce and Chopped Salad

[Don't forget to sign up to participate in the Friendship Bracelet Swap! Click here for more info!]

It's suddenly summer here in Iowa and this weekend it was up in the 90s on Sunday. That didn't inspire me to turn on the oven, as you can imagine, so I relied on my CSA veggies to whip up a big chopped salad for dinner. This type of salad is my go-to meal in summer—it's flavorful, filling and is endless open to using whatever I have on hand.

Since this really isn't a recipe, but rather a method, here's what I do:
I combine a mix of lettuce (which I chop up if there are very large leaves) with chopped crunchy veggies like carrots, radishes and cucumber, then I add cheese (grated cheddar, crumbled feta or goat cheese, depending on what's around), a protein (like pinto beans, black eyed peas or walnuts), and tomatoes if I have them. Sometimes I throw in roasted veggies if I have leftovers or I add a cooked grain like bulgur or wheat berries.

Really, it's all about getting a few different textures and flavors in the mix—which is why I try to chop things up to be somewhat uniform and small. 9 times out of 10, I use this balsamic vinaigrette dressing:

Balsamic vinaigrette
based on the one in the Real Food Daily cookbook
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 glove garlic, grated on a microplane (or totally smashed)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp dijon mustard,

Put all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk vigorously with a fork, or shake in a small jar with the lid screwed on tightly.

I make sure to add cracked pepper and salt, and I try to made the dish at least 30 minutes ahead if I can because I think it's tastes better when it's had a chance to sit and soak in the dressing. I could seriously eat a version of this every single day!

Last week, I mentioned the vanilla coconut ice cream that I made and here you can see it, topped with strawberry rhubarb sauce that is my new favorite spring topping (simply those fruits, a bit of water, sugar and a tbsp of cornstarch cooked together until soft and thick). It's great on oatmeal, yogurt and ice cream, and made this a dessert I will surely make again. Though I might try it with light coconut milk—this batch was possibly a tad too rich!

These pictures were taken by my talented friend Bethany, who I am always saying is welcome to come over because I love seeing my life through her lens.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Inspired Image: Sharleen of Shartreuse Studio

You might remember this image that I posted last Friday for my mini-print of the month pick. It was also taken by Sharleen, a photographer who quickly moved to my favorites list. Read on to hear the story behind this image shown here.

Hello, my name is Sharleen Heist

You can find me at and

This image comes from my personal collection. It was taken by me, over ten years ago and is of my then two-year-old son and his kitty.

It inspires me because it was the first photo I  took that opened my eyes to the idea of an images ability to "speak" to it's viewer. The idea that an image can be more than just a documentation of ones life. The idea that an image can take you to another place or time, recall a memory, tell a story or inspire one...a good image can do all of these things. This photo made me want to learn more about the art of photography and in doing so led to a new career for me!

I particularly love the fact that neither subject is aware of the camera. Enabling me to capture a truly tender moment between my son and his beloved kitty.

It makes me feel
nostalgic! Nostalgic for those days when my son was small enough to climb up onto my lap. Nostalgic for those days as a child, when you had noting better to do than sit and look out the window. Nostalgic for those long summer days spent with my sister, dressing our kitty in doll clothes and pushing her around the neighborhood in a buggy.

The 3 words it conjures up are tender, reminiscent and enlightening.


Friendship Bracelet Swap: If you missed the original post, don't forget to sign up to participate in the Friendship Bracelet Swap! You have until May 25th to sign up. Click here for more info!

Weekend plans: I have agreed to learn how to weed (because at the moment I'm not sure that I could tell you which plants are good plants and which are bad in our backyard), and we have a few more pictures to hang. Otherwise, I'm planning to relax, maybe read and sew a bit, and then pack for an early week trip to NYC. I'm lucky enough to be going to the Sex and the City 2 premiere, and while I've been stressing about what to wear, I'm trying to focus on how fun the experience will be and the time together with my family.

See you back here on Monday!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Link Love: Penchant for Stitched Pendants

[If you missed the original post, don't forget to sign up to participate in the Friendship Bracelet Swap! You have until May 25th to sign up. Click here for more info!]
I've noticed an uptick in the number of people, including some of my favorite people, doing needlework on pendants. In addition to thinking that these would be downright lovely worn all summer, I also think that they could make quite striking wall adornments. Here are some of my current favs.

These first two are from Corrinne of September House. She makes all sorts of lovely embroidery and I just love the linen backing with the one tone thread on these.

This next one is from Janick of neawear and I'm really enjoying this leaf-on-wood motif that she has going on here.

And these last two are from the Pin Pals, a shop that is filled with items I covet (check out these barrettes!). First is the Filigree See-Through Folk Locket, combining a detailed item of jewelry with an awesome and somewhat more traditional pattern of stitching.

This one, the Bluebell Heart Cross Stitch Pendant, is just so darling I can hardly stand it—happiness on a chain, for sure.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rhubarb Cake for Breakfast

[If you missed the original post, don't forget to sign up to participate in the Friendship Bracelet Swap! You have until May 25th to sign up. Click here for more info!]

As I mentioned on Monday, I made a delicious rhubarb cake over the weekend using part of a huge bundle we were gifted with. There are few food things I love more than having cake or crisp for breakfast (made with healthy, whole grains so that it's at least mostly a responsible start to my day) and I decided that the rhubarb needed to be put to that use.

I found the recipe for the Unfussy Apple Cake on a long time ago and thought that it might make a good base for my rhubarb. All I did was swap the rhubarb in for the apples and made the rest according to the recipe. We've been eating it for breakfast with Greek yogurt—which today was also topped with a rhubarb strawberry sauce (I filled a small sauce pot with diced rhubarb, added a bit of water, let it cook down, then stirred in a few spoonfuls of sugar, sliced strawberries and a tablespoon or so of cornstarch and let it cook just a few minutes more as I didn't want to overcook the berries). It is super tasty and also nice and tangy.

Click here to see the full recipe.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Friendship Bracelet Swap: Sign Up Now!

 [Image from Syd and Goose]

I have been thinking about hosting a friendship bracelet swap for months now—particularly after I found a stash of old supplies hidden in my parents attic. I made bracelets All The Time. I had a purple lap desk and a plastic fishing tackle box that held my supplies and I could set up my knotting and braiding shop wherever we went (I spent hours making them in our maroon Dodge Caravan).

[Image from Folksy]

I gave some to friends and I kept some for myself, and I definitely equate them with long days at the beach and flip flops.

Since the opportunities to connect with our online communities offline seem to be few and far between, I hope this will provide a moment to bridge that gap.

Here's how to participate:
1. Email me at thingswemake [at] gmail [dot] com (be sure to let me know your name) by May 25 in order to sign up. I will reply with details by May 28.  I've realized that having a deadline on this wasn't necessary, so if you want to join in, just make sure you can send your bracelet in by the due date!
2. Make one bracelet and mail it me to arrive no later than June 20. Please include a note saying who you are, your email/website/etsy/twitter info so that the person who receives your bracelet will know who their friend is. I will pair you up with someone so that you get a bracelet from the person who receives yours.
3. Optional: donate some extra bracelet making supplies and I'll bundle them to give to my local Boys & Girls Club so that younger girls can have the pleasure of making each other bracelets this summer.

[Image via Wendylouise on flickr]

-I am leaving the type of bracelet you make completely open, so use gimp, embroidery thread, fabric, whatever you feel moved to use. (Channel your inspiration from when you went to summer camp!)
-Since the is my first swap, I'm collecting the bracelets and mailing them out to ensure that anyone who makes one gets on in return.
-Please be sure that you are able to commit to finishing and sending your bracelet when you sign up.

Let me know if you have any questions and I hope you'll join in the fun!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekend Highlights: Flowers and Rhubarb

Amazingly, this weekend didn't involve any major house projects, which was a first since we moved in three weeks ago (though I admit that I did spend about two hours hanging pictures, but that was nothing compared to painting the kitchen!). Which meant I had a little more time to sew, cook, and admire the flowers in our yard. Like these.

I mean, can you say drama? I am somewhat impressed by these flowers, which I believe to be irises but I'm not sure of the variety, since they resemble an orchid and have been threatening to burst open for over a week now. I don't expect that they will last all that long since they are rather delicate, but I do love the spectacle of them by our driveway.

This one has just one other like it and I have no idea of the type of flower (again, they came with the house) but how I adore the little purple burst!

The rest of the weekend included quilting, baking a rhubarb cake (I'll share that later this week), and some strawberry rhubarb sauce to go with vanilla coconut ice cream that I'm planning to have for dessert tonight with friends. We were lucky enough to get a big bag full from one of Josh's coworkers, which officially has me plotting to get our own plant...and figure out what other fruit we can grow in our backyard.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mini Print of the Month: Spring Blossoms from Shartreuse

Yesterday afternoon, the deep gray sky finally started giving way to the sun. It seemed unsure at first—the clouds were holding steady in the sky only letting a sliver of blue peak out at a time. But by the time I'd gotten home in the evening, the sun was shining brightly and it felt as if I had no choice but to take a walk to soak some of it in.

I go through phases where access to sunlight impacts me more than others, and most of the time, I'd say that I hardly notice the difference. But this week—when I was adjusting to a new workspace where I'd lost my previously lovely view of the sky—I felt like I was dragging. And the rainy days certainly weren't helping. Thankfully, yesterday's break in the weather came at just the right time. I needed that sun and while it took the whole evening to pull myself out of the funky mood that I'd picked up throughout the day (which was 99% induced by the DMV), I know the sun helped me get back to feeling like me. Today, the sun is out again, I had breakfast with some of my favorite people here, and there's a garden outside of the office where I can sit and eat my lunch. All of which seems like a perfect thing to do on a Friday.

As is staring at this image, which reminds me of the yard around the house where I grew up. We had these flowers near our back door in various shades of pinks and purples and I always loved having them around in the summer. I'm glad that's May's mini print of the month—this is called Spring Blossoms V from Shartreuse on etsy, who had another print on the etsy home page today—that will always remind me of that door and that house, where I started to become who I am today.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Link Love: Bright and Cheery Fabrics

Whenever I start a new quilting project, I am much more aware of fabric combinations and collections. I find myself with a new urge to start multiple projects at once—in part because of these fabrics. How could I not want to work with them all?!

Above are the Feather and Bird fabric and the Bicycle fabric from Aunt June on etsy. She designed the fabric and prints it via Spoonflower and I am loving the rainbow of colors—even more so this week since it feels like we're under a perpetually gray sky that just keeps dumping buckets and buckets of rain.

These fabrics are from a different part of the color wheel, sure, but together they make a ridiculously  gorgeous palette (which I am just realizing is very similar to the colors that we used in our house). This is the new collection from Cloud9 Fabrics, which is a line of organic cotton designed by Michelle E Bencsko that is just heavenly. It's called "Beyond the Sea" and I'm hoping to eventually make my parents something for their shore house from some of the options.

And finally, via True Up (one of my new favorite blogs with a header that inspires some serious jealousy), there is Amy Butler's coming-in-fall line of fabrics for Westminster, Soul Blossoms. I love the combination of graphic and floral patterns and the colorway (pink!). I'm looking forward to seeing this one in my local quilting shop come fall.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cross Stitching by Mim of Muddle + Flow

I came across the cross stitching by Mim of Muddle + Flow a little over a week ago and I was eager to learn more about how she learned to do what she does. Her designs are so fun and I am particularly taken with the duck and owl brooches. Here's a bit from Mim about what she makes.

I can't remember exactly when I learned to cross stitch, but I can remember my mum teaching me needlepoint when I was quite little. I was raised in a very creative environment, so I have virtually learned to sew, stitch, dart, knit, pleat and fold by osmosis. My tools at that time were a piece of plastic mesh, some wool, and a huge plastic needle! I loved it even then!

I have chosen to cross stitch my pieces, because am keenly aware that many of the needle crafts that where widely taught in previous generations are gradually being forgotten. I wanted to set myself a challenge to 're-use'/'re-style' a technique that is often perceived to have 'had it's day' in a more contemporary form.

I find inspiration for my work everywhere. I do seem particularly interested in depicting birds, but I also love designing patterns inspired by faraway places, like Morocco. By day, I work at a desk job, so this is my creative outlet... when i get the time!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Baby Quilt Update #1, Plus Studio Sneak Peek

This past weekend I finally set up my sewing area. I got really lucky with the space in this house as I am able to use an entire half of the basement—which was formerly a wood working studio and has been immaculately kept and well lit. And I got to work on my next quilting project, which is a gift (I know that I promised myself I'd make something I could keep, but then two of my friends announced that they were pregnant, so there you go). I'm really excited that I found a way to use these Anna Maria Horner voile fabrics, which are so, so soft. Perfect for a little one to roll around on.

It measures about 3x4 feet and while I haven't quite decided on how I'm going to quilt it, I am eager to get started. I machine stitched about half of the top—until my bobbin started giving me agita—so I went back to hand stitching (which meant I was able to work on it over my lunch break yesterday at my desk!).

Okay, back to the work space, which you can see below. There is a huge work bench at a great height and after I covered it with an old floral sheet, it was transformed. I also made a little sitting area where I can work when I'd rather be sitting and I'm going to gradually cover the peg board with things that inspire me.

Sure, it's a basement and it's going to be chilly in the winter (and likely warm in the summer), but there is natural light, windows that open, and—most of all—it is terribly exciting to have my own little sanctuary with ample space for me to make things.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weekend Highlights: Tulip Time

This weekend was filled with a wide range of activities, which on Saturday included heading out to Pella for the yearly Tulip Time. It was, unfortunately, a little late for the tulips this year (it's been so warm this spring that they were in full force about a month ago), but we got to see 2500 people break the world record for dancing in wooden shoes...

Eat some traditional Dutch food, like these pofferties (mini pancakes)...

And see the windmill all dressed up.

One of the highlights was checking out all of the pretty dresses and lacy scarves that many of the women were wearing (and repeating how much fun it would be to dress up, even though I have zero Dutch heritage in me to speak of).

 Had it not been in the 40s, windy and sprinkling rain, I'm sure we would have stayed to check out one of the many parades, if only so that I could have gotten a peak at Miss Tulip Time.
There was also a quilt show (with voting!), that we of course had to check out. Plus it was inside which made it a nice opportunity to warm up. I worked on my own new quilting project and set up my crafting area on Sunday and I'll show you both of them tomorrow. Until the, here are a few of my favorite quilts from the show.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Note On Expectations

Lately, so much in my life has changed that it's hard for me to believe that it all feels so normal. I touched on this a little on Monday, but moving into a new house (with a boy!) in a new part of town and adjusting to the rythmn of life as two has been, well, unexpectedly simple. Sure, two independent people uniting their living spaces brings it's own set of challenges (like which way to hang the roll of toilet paper- I am a decidedly over the top girl), but I can't tell you how great it feels that figuring all of that out feels like exactly the thing I'm meant to be doing.

It's coming up on a year that I've been living in Des Moines and if you would have told me that this is what my life would have looked like as I packed my car and drove away from my tiny apartment in Harlem, I wouldn't have believed you. None of this—the darling house, the darling boy (who is a man, really), the lifestyle that lets me sleep soundly at night—were things that I expected.

And yet here we are. My only real conclusion from all of this is that change can be an amazingly good thing and that wonderfully unexpected things can come from trying something new. And whether that's as simple as trying a new recipe, a new yoga pose, a new way of quilting, or something as complicated as trying to get to know a new person, a new neighborhood or a new way of living (that involves driving), I am here to say go for it.

On that note, we're heading to Pella to partake in some Tulip Time festivities, including lunch with friends, a craft show and a quilt show (expect to see at least one shot of the town windmill on Monday), and I'm going to find some backing fabric for a new quilting project that I've been working on. I will share that next week too. Here's hoping that you all have a lovely weekend, in ways you can't yet imagine.

[Inspiring print above is from Dazeychic on Etsy. Click here to see be taken right to it!]