Monday, August 30, 2010

Baby Quilt: Done and Done! (With a Preview of My Next Project)

After getting home from work early enough to do a Friday night dinner and movie (saw Eat Pray Love, thought the book was way better...more time to understand the motivation for change), the weekend felt blissfully and properly long.

On Saturday we hit the farmers market to check out a potential wedding band, and get some farm fresh goodies, I gave the house a deep clean, and we started on the beginnings of major changes to the lawn in the backyard. Which meant moving a lot of rocks. And Sunday I baked, cooked ahead for the week (black beans, wheat berries to go into a chopped salad for lunches, a big jar of salsa to be used with baked chicken, and two loaves of quick bread for breakfast Friday—two of my best friends will be in town, I'm hosting breakfast club that morning AND it's Josh's bday). We also took a long bike ride and sat on the couch with homemade popcorn and Mad Men.

I finished the baby quilt.

Both because it's a big accomplishment—I proved to myself that a gifted quilted item does not need to take a year of my life to be thoughtful—and it means I get to start on a project for myself.

A few months ago, I picked up four vintage quilt blocks while visiting nyc. I love them and have been thinking of how to use them ever since. Once I painted the guest room/office, I realized that they would be a somewhat bold, but not overwhelming addition, in the form of a quilted wall hanging to serve as a headboard. I spent some time at the fabric store and got an assortment of fabrics to go with them. It might take me some time to settle on exactly how I want to design this, but I love how well it all goes with the wall color.

And that my friends, was my weekend. We packed a lot in, but I also got three lovely nights of sleep and feel ready to start another week.

P.S. Since I've been so interested in balance lately, I'm going to start a new Wednesday series where I profile a crafty person, tell a little about their work and include a tidbit of advice for achieving work/creative work/life balance. If you would like to share, please drop me a line at thingswemake [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, August 27, 2010

August Print of the Month: Up from Linn Photography

Up from Linn Photography
This is my eighth purchase in this year's mini print of the month series, which is my commitment to buying a photography or illustration print from an independent artist each month this year. 

I just love how this image captures what I love about summer and also the type of location where I someday want to live—in the woods, under a canopy, filled with summer sounds (crickets, cicadas, tree frogs, etc). It's been a good summer and as kids and teachers go back to school, this is a little visual reminder of the windows open feeling that I so enjoy.

And because it's Friday, here are a few things from around the web that I bookmarked this week:
Downloadable Jam Labels from Poppytalk (would totally use them if I had enough fruit to can).
Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe from Simple Bites. I might be making this over the weekend.
More lovely and organic fabrics from Cloud Nine that make me really excited to be almost ready to start a new quilting project (via decor8)
V over at Beauty Schooled finishing up her time in beauty school. Oh happy happy day!!

And on that note, happy Friday and enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Looking for Wedding Wisdom

I've been doing a lot of thinking about wedding planning—both the nature of it and also the actual act of thinking through steps as we start making some decisions—and I have to say that it's been just as hard as I expected that it might be.

I've watched many friends go through this process lately—check out Brianne's wedding graduate post over on A Practical Wedding for one example—and I have to say that the whole thing just feels hard. Which is funny because this sort of planning, picking out colors, creating an aesthetic, making things cohesive and meaningful through details, is part of my day job. I know that I can do it, so that's clearly not the issue.

It's the bigger issue of finding a way to outwardly represent the amazing relationship that I have with Josh through locations, food choices, decor, readings, and apparel. I think that's a pretty tall order and I'm downright intimidated by it. Part of why I feel this particular pressure is because about 75% of our guests will be coming to Des Moines for the first time so we'll be playing host as well as having them share in our day. And I'm a perfectionist by nature so I of course want to ensure that they have the best experience possible. And I want it to look lovely.

But all of that is meaning that making decisions—I'm stuck on the location right now as the State Park that we'd settled on is remarkably flood prone, a chance that seems unwise to take in our lovely water logged state—is even harder. This is especially true since we're trying to stick to a budget and are therefore avoiding traditional wedding venues* are out, which is actually okay with us since that means we'll have more say in each element of the reception—like beer from Peacetree and wine from Chimney Rock. I know that when the day comes, whatever we decide will fade into the background because the reason that we'll all be there is to celebrate the joining of our two families, the start of our deeper commitment to each other. But it's a little hard to see the forest through the trees right now.

That said, I am VERY excited about my dress plans—all I will say that they involve my mom and I having a hand in the making of the dress alongside some super talented ladies down south! YAY!—and I am even more excited to be get to marry Josh (that day feels like it can't come soon enough!).

The board of images above is one of my wedding inspiration boards in Pinterest, a handy bookmarking site that allows you to keep track of things as you surf the web. It's crazy useful for someone as visual as me and it's really fun to see what my friends are being drawn to. They are some images that I've gathered for inspiration and to help me try to imagine the end result of our current efforts—there are clearly a few threads like a mixture of shades of pink, flowers in mason jars, natural elements and an outdoor ceremony.

So, if any of you have been through this and have faced similar feelings of wedding planning intimidation, please share.

*Just a little note about my use of the word traditional. I do not mean it in a negative way. I simply mean that we can't fit a venue that comes with a hefty price tag and that stipulates wine and beer costs in our budget, so we're having to be more creative and DIY. Just wanted to be sure that I clarified that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to School Cooking Tips Plus More Garden Goodness

Oven roasted heirloom tomatoes
 After spending last weekend giving the guest room/my office a good makeover, this weekend was a lot more laid back. Which was good because I definitely needed it.

Not to mention that today is Josh's first day of classes (he's a professor), so it was lovely to have time together, and a little time to prepare for the week ahead.

Since we're both busy and like to eat well during the week, I try to have a few things made ahead of time so that there is food to grab when we need it, that there are leftovers to take for lunch, and that there is the start of a few dinners waiting in the fridge. I am definitely still learning how to do this, but I think, and hope, that this will make us feel grounded and cared for even through long days.

Buttermilk Farro Salad
 This weekend, this translated to a double batch of granola, which is a perfect quick breakfast option, and an enormous brown rice salad adapted from this Farro Buttermilk Salad recipe from 101cookbooks. I put in thinly sliced cucumber, beets, and fennel, with dill, thyme, salt pepper and a buttermilk white vinegar dressing. I added in shredded mozarella and used brown rice as a nice (inexpensive) substitute for the farro that was called for. We had it for dinner last night with grilled local lamb and will be having it for lunch today and tomorrow.

I also made a batch of slow roasted tomatoes from the garden since there were just too many that were on the verge of going badly. I roasted them, cut up and on a rack placed on a baking sheet (so that drips had somewhere to go), at 225 F for about 4 hours. They wound up slightly shriveled and sweet, and I put them into jars topped with olive oil and a few sprigs of basil. This will turn into a quick no cook pasta sauce later in the week.

Whole grain French toast
 And because there's nothing like a hearty Sunday morning breakfast, we had French toast. Which has nothing to do with preparing for the week other than making sure we took a few moments to enjoy the luxury of time while we had it. Plus, it was excellent fuel for a 34 mile bike ride that we took later that day (before then sitting on the couch and watching Mad Men for the rest of the afternoon- we like to balance things out!).

I'd love to hear any tips on how you balance work with weekends and feeding your families—do you cook extra on the weekends? Rely on a few quick dinner options that are easy and fuss free? I'm thinking that we'll probably have at least one "free" night a week where we're each on our own to fed for ourselves for dinner. But since we don't see each other all day, we are going to try to eat dinner together when we can.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Join the ReadyMade Community Cookbook (with a Side of Link Love!)

Photography by Marty Baldwin
Hello, thanks for being here and happy Friday! I have some exciting news to share with you today about a project that I'm working on at my day job with ReadyMade. If you're not familiar with the magazine it's about people who make things and the culture of making, with a hefty dose of projects for your home, garden, closet and kitchen. It's a pretty fun read, if I do say so myself, and it's filled with useful info.

All of that said, we're also heavily user generated and we rely on our community for a lot of our content. To celebrate both our community and the tradition of community cookbooks—those spiral bound booklets that womens groups across the country put together often to raise money for a good cause, like their church or community group—we're putting together our own community cookbook. We think this is a really fun way to gather our food community, share recipes all in one collection, and take the energy that we share online back into our own kitchens. We'll also be partnering with a food-related charity so that we can do a little good in the process.

So we need your recipes!

Is there something that you're known for? Something that's been passed down in your family and you can't have a party without? Something that you recently discovered you are stellar at making? Whichever the case, we'd love to have you submit one of your recipes and have the chance to be published in our cookbook.

Click here for all of the submission information and please feel free to share this project with your friends and family. The more people we can get involved, the better the book will be, so do join in, okay?

Now that we've gotten that taken care of here is a bit of Link Love for you.
1. There is a preview of Anna Maria Horner's new fabric line, Innocent Crush, up on her blog. Oh my, exciting stuff and I definitely need to figure out how to get myself the dress that is shown in the picture!
2. This wedding on Snippet & Ink seriously makes me want to find a barn that would be cool enough for a wedding reception in Iowa in July (not sure it's possible, but this is SO pretty!). I love the simplicity of the bride's hair—there are flyaways! they are lovely!—and the decorations in the barn.
3. Cherry Pomegranate Sorbet on Honey & Jam. Yum.
4. Young House Love's post on greener lawn care is providing a lot of fuel for thought on what to do with our enormous lawn that I for one think we do not need to be mowing (front yard, I understand, back yard...who cares!?)
5. This Built by Wendy dress made by Karyn at Make Something. Truth be told, I never did get around to making the dress I bought a pattern for this past spring...maybe this is a sign that I would be happier if I could be whipping up clothes for myself!

Okay, continue on with your day. And yay weekend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Emma Walsh Designs on How to Balance Creative Pursuits with Schooling

Leila Vintage Gold Lace on Silver Chain

Emma Walsh transforms found and vintage beads, lace and other interesting ephemera into accessories and home wares, with a gauzy, dream-like sensibility. Just looking through her shop—her necklaces, like the one above, are my favorite—is like a little escape from the everyday. Here's Emma to tell you how she's balancing her schooling with her creative pursuits.

Name: Emma Walsh

Where do you live?
I live in a beautiful little house right by beach in a sleepy little town called Waihi Beach in New Zealand.
Creme Brulee Cream Knit Clutch Purse
How did you start making your line?
I’ve always loved to do things with my hands. And as a self-confessed magpie I absolutely love hunting around emporiums, vintage clothing shops, quirky boutiques, antique markets and thrift stores for hidden gems which seems to fulfill my inquisitive nature. I was struggling to find a more hands on creative outlet while I was studying Architecture... I got frustrated being stuck in front of a computer all day and was positively exploding with inspiration for smaller scale design - home wares, jewellery, fashion and artworks that I wanted to create! So I finished up with Architecture in June last year and moved up to the beautiful Waihi Beach and transformed the garage into my studio and the downstairs areas into display rooms and got creating. One thing led to another and before long I was selling online. I love every minute of every day - every morning I wake up knowing that this day will bring something new and exciting.

Grace- Gold Rose on Chain
Where do you find your supplies and why do you like to use vintage and found objects?
Absolutely everywhere! I love sifting through vintage and antique stores, and go to flea markets and garage sales most weekends... All the beautiful vintage fabrics, laces and beads... I love wondering who might have owned it before me, and imagining some elaborate story behind it... There's something quite magical about vintage things... its as if they soak up all the environments and characters of their past owners or something, that time worn patina is truly special, there's nothing like it!...  Quite often i have no idea what I'm going to do with what I buy - I just admire a certain quality in it and before long, I'll find a perfect use for it!

Ephemera- White Lace Votive
How does making these items help or balance your studies?
I'm doing a diploma in Interior Design at the moment, which I'm absolutely loving, but the hands on creating and working with people is a nice creative outlet to give me a break from the reading and essay writing. But it all feeds in together, they compliment each other nicely I think... I've really seen the aesthetic of my work evolve the past year and that has to be the product of my jewellery and homewares design filtering through into my interiors work. People often comment on the very limited colour palette of my work, and that I mustn't like colour much, but I think its more that I'm into exploring the effects of form, shape, light and texture in my work and colour just detracts from all of that.
Cinnamon Sugar Gold Lace Applique Bib Necklace
What sets your work apart?
I think its safe to say you wont find anything else like it out there! Simply because most of my pieces are reworked vintage fabrics, beads, chains, brooches, lace, doilies and various different knick knacks I've found in my travels, so most pieces are one off designs, I also love to work with a client to create a certain piece that's perfect for them - often they see something I've made and combine it with their own ideas or a different colour so it's just right. My work is very feminine and romantic... so it's definitely suited for brides looking for a special piece, but its also about costume jewellery, pieces to add the finishing touch to a lovely outfit, or even  for everyday wear or to just add a touch of glam and elegance to a tee and jeans!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Guest Room/My Office Makeover, All Paint and Pictures

New desk space, complete with a berry box paper clip holder on the shelf
 After moving into our house back in late April, when we immediately painted the living room, dining room and kitchen (oh how that lime green dining room was just not us), we took a little break. But the guest room/my office has been on my list since then because while the color had been fine, the walls were all scuffed and full of nail holes. I'd hung pictures simply to cover the marks.

This is the room when the previous owners of the house were here

But by waiting until I felt ready to tackle the project, it was a highly exciting project that I had both the energy and the time to do. I had been thinking about the color for months and had blue stuck in my head—a pretty, but saturated shade of light blue (think robins egg or a Tiffany's box). After trying 6 sample shades, I settled on Forget Me Not by Benjamin Moore (their Natura line, which is zero VOC). Saturday we painted and shimmied around the dropcloth-covered bed (and I picked up some new frames from Target to house a few prints that had grown in a neglected pile), and Sunday I spent most of the day doing touch ups and hanging pictures. And ironing curtains and cleaning up.

I opted for sheers since I lowered the wattage of the ceiling fan bulbs and wanted to make the most of the sunlight.

The closet holds/hides my files, magazines and misc paperwork; one frame I still need to hang
By last night, I was both exhausted and delighted. I love that this room is a true reflection of my tastes and that we were finally able to make it our own. I am going to sew myself a wall hanging to serve as a headboard, hopefully soon, and one day I may replace the ceiling fan. But for now, this is a huge improvement!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer Projects Update and Friday Link Love

 I thought I'd take a moment to update you on where I am with my summer projects since it's been a while. I've been working on the baby quilt a little bit each night and am so close to finishing up the body—and then I get to move onto doing the binding, which is my favorite part since it means I'm almost done!

I like that the quilting on this one has been pretty minimal (as compared to this crazy beautiful one) and that I just might finish it before my friend has her baby. Above you can see the back.

The other project is my embroidery, which I started while on vacation. I've been working on this in the car, while traveling and also while I was on the beach last weekend and I've definitely gotten over the hump on this one too. That patch of green leaves in the center was a bit of a mental challenge, so I'm really happy to be done with that part. I love how this is turning out and love how I've been learning a new way of stitching.

Link Love: a few things I've found around the web this week that I just love
1. Summer Hair Challenge: the ladies at No More Dirty Looks are running this challenge that I am doing today—which is really hard since I have super curly hair and it's crazy humid outside!
Some time in the next week, when you get up in the morning, shower, shampoo and condition your hair using nontoxic natural products, comb it when you get out of the shower, and that’s it. Once it’s dry, send us a pic.
I'm being brave because I love the idea of breaking our reliance, or at least becoming aware of our reliance on chemically laden products. (Found via Beauty Schooled)

2. The colorful floral fabric dresses in this vineyard wedding make me swoon.
3. My tomato herb risotto recipe on ReadyMade which I am making again tonight.
4. The fabric jewelry from Vadjutka.
5. Pasta with corn pesto from Tim at Lottie + Doof sounds delish, if only we didn't clean out our pile of sweet corn last night. I guess it would be a good excuse to go get more!

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Memory Keeping for the Rest of Us: New Writing Prompts from Katie of Gadanke

She: Me, My Life, My Days- a new writing prompt journal

 I was lucky enough to e-meet my friend Katie a few years ago when I was working at another magazine (sidebar: got a fancy new makeover- go check it out!) and I've really enjoyed keeping tabs on what she's up to. She just started a creative side business that I am a big fan of—she's found an easy way to help us all record the tidbits that made us who we are, as a way to preserve and pass on memories. I like to think of it as StoryCorps for writers who like visually pleasing paper! Awesome, right? Here's more from Katie...

I'm Katie, the designer behind Gadanke. I'm American; my husband is German. We split our time between a 480 square foot apartment in Berlin, Germany and—get this—a house made out of hundreds of recycled tires in the Rocky Mountains. We ride our bikes just about anywhere we can, eat our vegetables, and have an enormous passion for seizing life.
  My husband and I were visiting my hometown to celebrate my grandma's 90th birthday. NPR's StoryCorp was in town to invite people to share their stories while a loved one interviewed. My dad and I thought it could be a really beautiful opportunity for my grandma to share some of her stories.  

I created a list of prompts and questions for my grandma - much like the tricks I had learned for my own journaling. My grandma and I practiced a little over a bowl of ice cream, then stepped into the recording bus.
Love Where We Live: a mini home book

The problem was my grandma couldn't remember it all.

Later she tried writing her story about college and meeting my grandfather. You can imagine how much she struggled. Too much time had gone by.

 My dad turned to me and said, “Katie, I need you to write about what life is like for you today.”

I know he was wishing he could read more about his own parents' views of the world. You can look back on times and read history books, but you cannot do it through the lens of someone in your family… unless she or he wrote it down.  That's when I realized I needed to take my approach to successful personal journaling and start helping other people bring out their stories, their memories, and their passions for life.
Love Letter: A mini love book for someone close to your heart
 My goal is simple: I want to help you create the type of journal you'll treasure—whether it's about you, where you live, or someone you love. We all have stories. My journaling products—filled with writing prompts and quotations—can help make your writing process more enjoyable and meaningful. You'll really dive into the ideas that give you a zest for life. It's more interesting and fun to write about who you are than about what you ate for dinner.

Click here to see the full range of journals from Katie.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blueberry Zucchini Bread and Peeks from a Weekend at the Jersey Shore

I spent the past weekent at the Jersey shore with family which included many hours on the beach and a lovely evening celebrating our engagement. Not surprisingly, the food was outstanding and I came away with a handful of new recipes to try at my house. Here is my new favorite summer bread recipe and a few highlights from the weekend.

Zucchini Blueberry Bread
Adapted by my mom from my Grandmom Palanjian's recipe

1 c all purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
1/4 t baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
3 t cinnamon
1 t salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c canola oil
1/2 c apple sauce
2 c zucchini, grated and well drained
2 c blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Stir the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Stir the wet ingredients together, then mix gradually into the dry, stirring to combine. Stir in the zucchini and bluberries.
3. Pour the batter into a lightly greased loaf pan and bake for an hour or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Slice and serve (we like it for breakfast with cream cheese or butter).

Sticky Buns from Mallon's have long been a breakfast tradition in our part of the Jersey shore, so we had to buy a box—especially after we drove by the bakery on our way into town and got a heady dose of the cinnamon scent.

My Uncle Ralph was in charge of the cooking for our engagement party, which meant a steady stream of amazing food. There were crabs (a bushel full!), linguine with homemade marinara sauce, mussels, chicken cutlets (my absolute favorite), fresh Italian bread and salad for good measure.

And, drumroll please, my mom made the Most Amazing Strawberry Shortcake Ever. This is actually what she made for dessert for my first birthday party (awe), so the cake is her mother's pound cake recipe and the layers include a strawberry rhubarb jam, fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Honestly, I didn't like I liked strawberry shortcake because of the shortcake bit, but change it out for pound cake and I'm so totally in!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Inspired Image: from the Illustrator behind Double Merrick

Merrick is an England-born illustrator based in France who runs a shop called Double Merrick. This month they are announcing a new limited edition print called "Birds"(scroll down to see it!) that I love the spirit of. I also love the typewriter print, also shown below, but I'll stop talking and let you hear from Merrick herself about why she chose today's Inspired Image.

Hello, my name is Merrick Angle.

You can find me at my online shop, Double Merrick.

This image comes from a set of building blocks my daughter and I bought from an amazing old junk shop near us. I carried it around in my pocket for ages, I finally scanned it when I got fed up of stabbing myself on the corners!

It inspires me because of it's boldness and simplicity.

I particularly love dodgy old printing, especially when one of the colours is slightly off. The contrast between the wood and these spooky, disembodied eyes is also fascinating.

It makes me feel revved up to make things and curious about the world.

The 3 words it conjures up are eyes, eyes, EYES!!

I love ending the note on these illustrations! So with that, I'm heading to the Jersey Shore (not the area where the show is filmed, at all!) to get my fill of salt water taffy and family. Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Q&A with Jewelry Maker Erin of Gypsy Sol Designs

 I am pretty minimal when it comes to the jewelry I wear, today's post is all about exactly the sort of pieces that I am drawn towards when I want to wear to dress up an outfit. Here's Erin's story...

Name: Erin Reed
Location: San Diego, CA
Site: Gypsy Sol Designs
About 6 years ago a friend of mine showed me the basics of jewelry making, and I was hooked.  Busy with two babies, I put my tools on the shelf until I recently decided to make time to create.  I kept getting stopped by people asking where they could by my items, and thus, Gypsy Sol Designs was born. I am the daughter of a wonderfully skilled craftsman, and was raised to have appreciation for those who create. I realize now that my desire to create beautiful things probably comes with seeing my dad create impressive things out of nothing.
I think my work stands apart because it has an organic feel, yet can be paired with a ball gown or blue jeans. I'ts not "blingy" yet still is eye-catching.  All of my items are named after song titles from artists that I am listening to while creating. 
Tricks for fitting creating in? Wait till the babes are sleeping!! I can't get anything done with two toddler boys running around, to all work is done when they are peacefully asleep!
I am really excited about the a-symmetrical necklaces that I have been making.  Here are a few of my favorite items:
I just think these are gorgeous, and again, perfect with jeans and a t-shirt or something fancy.
I love my single stone necklaces, and make them in various different colors.  I love to layer them with other pieces, especially my hand stamped initial necklaces.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekend Highlights: Hudson Valley Edition

After working all of last week in NYC, I was lucky enough to train it up the Hudson River to spend the weekend with my good (great!) friends. I love the area around Beacon (where the Dia has a museum) and New Hamburg both because Virginia and Dan live there, but also because of the ratio of trees to development in the area—it definitely errs on the side of trees.

Plus, summer along the river is lovely, as was enjoying their garden and CSA loot (even as I was pining for my own suddenly ripe heirloom tomatoes). Here are some of the highlights of how we spent the weekend.

The flowers, hollyhocks and zinnias (which totally scream summer), are in their garden, which was really fun to see since I was last there during the winter. It made me realize that I definitely want more brightly colored flowers in my yard, and that I want to loosen up our highly organized flower beds (that were there when we bought our house).

We went for a sunset picnic hike and for another long walk and got to take in views like this one.

We stopped into a few stores along Main Street in Beacon like the absolutely adorable Clay Wood & Cotton—where I picked up more goodies from Leah Duncan—and Crust, a just-opened bakery with fantastic foccacia.

And we made a lot of food for a family picnic on Sunday including Cherry Nectarine Crisp (based very loosely on this recipe—my crisps are almost always impromptu), Pulled Pork, and this Zucchini Slaw that is seriously my new summer salad staple. It was light and refreshing and a brilliant way to use up veggie excess. There were also cookies, three other salads and a multitude of appetizers to round out the offerings.

Virginia and I have thrown many parties together and we make a great team in the kitchen so I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten to help pull the food together. Plus, it gave us plenty of time to talk about my wedding plans (including starting an inspiration board that is about 75% complete) which was a serious bonus.