Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Swoon-worthy Crochet Accessories from Maria of Kjoo

Oh my heavens. Is this not the most gorgeous group of accessories you've seen in forever? I am completely smitten with Maria's work and if you are related to me, or are a close friend, and you have a birthday coming up, expect to see one of these items in your mailbox! The thing I can't quite wrap my head around is what she did to crochet—I had no idea that craft could be taken to this beautiful place, a place that seems to be both modern and traditional, a place inspired by tribal jewelry, yet one that feels completely authentic. Love!

Name: Maria João Ribeiro
Location: Portugal
How did you first learn to crochet?
I first learned as a child with my grandmother. Then a few years ago, I started to crochet again after a long time. I am continuously learning...

Is this your fulltime work? 
I am a graphic designer also, but my kjoo accessories is taking 99% of my time at the moment.

Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration comes from day-to-day life, nature, antique findings or travel. I am always very much inspired by African tribal jewelry.

What's the best part of creating?
This is a difficult question...I love what I do and I am so proud when I have something in mind and I can accomplish all the process, from the idea to the product itself. I love details, unexpected ones, I believe you can see this on my work.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quilted Wall Hanging Headboard- Done!

I'm excited to report that I finished my wall hanging this weekend, bringing this project in at exactly three weeks. I love how quickly it came together (not having to piece together the top vintage blocks really sped things up!) and how it adds a lovely final touch to my guest room/home office.

To hang it, I added about six loops onto the back of the hanging and threaded a thin tension rod through it. I found the mid-point of where I wanted the hanging, then used a level to line up two spots for nails. I started my nail holes with a drill since our plaster walls are notoriously known to blasting apart, then pounded them in (they were small picture hanging nails). After that, I hung the rod onto the nails and stepped back to make sure it was all evened up.

I have three more similar blocks and I think I might try a little experiment of doing even smaller wall hangings using one each. I figure they will make good gifts, be very quick to make, and serve the same purpose on a wall as a picture (only better I think!).

A few other weekend highlights involved meeting my friend's new little baby, enjoying some sunny fall weather while working in the garden, and baking on Sunday morning. I made these Blue Corn Harvest Muffins, which are delightful and delicious if you are in the market for a new muffin recipe. I used regular old cornmeal since it's what I had in the house and I plan to enjoy them as afternoon snacks all week. Fall baking is definitely helping me to embrace the cooler temperatures!

Friday, September 24, 2010

On Choosing a Wedding Venue (and Finding Patience)

I've been on a lovely little wedding planning sabbatical, which means that I haven't had any pressing business left in my September to-do list other than finding a crinoline for my dress, which my mom is working on for me! I've just been enjoying wandering thoughts about the day, a here and there idea or spark of inspiration that is making me really enjoy this phase.

This is also because the big stuff is sorted—like the venue, which is my topic for today. We decided to have the wedding here in Des Moines since it's smack in the middle of my family in NJ and Josh's family in MT. Plus, since most of our family members haven't been here, or seen where we live, we figured this could share our real lives with everyone too. Hooray for that!

But while settling on that was easy, the actual venue-finding bit was not—it was complicated. You know those Midwestern floods you often see on the news? We are often hit with them, which means the lovely state park with an early 1900s limestone lodge which we both thought was perfect made us Very nervous due to its proximity to a river. In fact, I believe that the park actually flooded this summer during the monsoons in July.

So I started asking friends for ideas, I took a few acquaintances who know the city better than I do out for meals, and I tried very hard to be patient as this sorted itself out.

It was tough. I am apparently very picky.

Part of the difficulty was knowing that I didn't want to deal with too many rules—we want to bring in our own alcohol (from a local brewery and a friend who's a winemaker); we want to have access to the place on Friday so that we have time to decorate; we want to be able to decorate how we like without worrying that someone will tell us we aren't allowed. And most of all, I did not want to pay a fee that felt like we were being ripped off. Tall order, indeed.

Until I finally found a place that fits all of those criteria AND will let us stay as long as we want to the night of the wedding. It's in the side of town that I wanted (there are bars, boutiques, and copious amounts of charm that I really wanted our guests to see) and it's within walking distance to the hotel where we plan to put everyone.

And it's big enough for dancing. Even for square dancing. I know!

I love that the building is old and was at one time used as a dance hall during one of the wars (that might be urban legend, but I am choosing to believe). And that it has enough character on it's own that we won't have to decorate the heck out of the place.

Sign Us Up.

Next week, I'll tell you about where we are planning to have the ceremony, because this post has gotten out-of-control-long already!

***LINK LOVE: a few things from around the interweb that I rather enjoyed this week.

Meg's post about money and self-worth over on A Practical Wedding, where she also knocked it out of the posting park with her post about wedding budgets. As of right now 488 people posted their wedding budget anonymously, which is So Amazing because it gives you perspective on this whole paying for a wedding business like nothing I have ever read before.

The pureed gazpacho on Lottie + Doof, which even though it comes at the tail end of tomato season here in the Midwest is how I plan to make gazpacho from here on out. No more eating salsa soup with a spoon!

You still have three days to enter the No-Makeup Challenge via the ladies at No More Dirty Looks!

Have you ever tried mead? Home brewing's renaissance-fair-esque cousin? Click here to find out why you should from me over at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Creative Balance and Crochet: Ashley of Blackwell Studio

While it was cold and rainy last weekend, I went through my stash of yarn to see what was hiding in there that I'd forgotten about—as it is the season to knit and crochet after all! And after getting in the mood for yarn, I had to share some of this work from Ashley of Blackwell Studio. It's chunky and cozy looking, sweet and slightly sassy. She's got some great advice to share about creative balance. Enjoy!

Name: Ashley Nunez
Maker of: crochet slippers, hats, and scarves

Why crochet?
When I first started crocheting I liked it because it kept my hands busy and it was good to pass the time, now I love it because I get to create such wonderful pieces that are handmade by my hands, they are unique, and they are the designs that I love & choose! It's also such a great feeling to touch, hold, and watch something come together that had only begun as a skein of yarn and a needle.

How do you find balance between your creative self and everyday life?
I balance it by being scheduled, but yet I try not to force myself to crochet just because it is the day or time to crochet..I try to keep to my schedule but if I'm not feeling creative I don't want to push it. I don't want to lose the passion, desire, and fun that come with crocheting. So when there is a moment I am feeling extra creative I try to put that first and feed it so I don't lose that drive and ambition...My day job, though more demanding, is quite flexible which allows me to sometimes put crocheting first.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find it mostly through colors. I LOVE colors! Anything bright, bold, and cheery I am usually drawn to. My creations tend to be very colorful and the spring and summer seasons make it very easy for me to fill that need! I also love the autumn and winter seasons because I can get more into the earthy neutral colors that offer much diversity and beauty. I also love to create things that are bigger, chunkier, and make a statement which is particularly easy in the colder time of the year. So my creations tend to always have an extra pizazz or pop of some sort added to them...I also have a huge soft spot for the more simple and elegant creations which will slip in to my shop from time to time..

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's-Starting-to-Feel-Like-Fall Apple Crisp

Oh fall, I am not quite ready for you because at the moment you feel like you're taking us straight into winter with your chilly, rainy days. But I am doing my best to embrace this weather by making a point to cook more comforting foods—a pot of meat sauce (using local meat from Grinnell Heritage Farm), baked fennel (finicchio! In Italian, which I was proclaiming all over the house), and the first apple crisp of the season.

We get some pretty good apples here at the farmers market and last week I went and stocked up because I knew that this urge would hit. My version of apple crisp swaps in plain yogurt for butter, making a sort of cross between a cobbler and crisp topping. It's very good, just sweet enough, and the perfect way to end a chilly weekend in September.

I am also happy to report that I'm sewing my way around the binding of my wall hanging headboard. Soon, my friends, this project will be in its rightful place on my guest bedroom wall!

I'm off to nyc for the start of this week where I eagerly look forward to the delightful sunny 70s forecast and the smiling faces of my dear friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wedding Planning: The Color Palette!

Oh boy does this make me happy! As I mentioned last week, I'm going to be sharing some aspects of wedding planning and inspiration on Fridays and where better to start than with color, right? Right!

Pinks: I am a pink girl. I love it, and while purple was my go-to color until I was about 6, since then it's been straight pink. I love the variations, the way that the color can be cheerful, sophisticated, moody, and elegant.
Coral/Salmon: Seriously, someone needs to rename this color because the names just don't do it justice. These warmer pinky/orange tones play really well with my skin tones so I figure that by having bursts of it around, it will make me look good, very naturally. I also like the energy that this brings to the palette.
Buttercup Yellow: I'm thinking of buttercup yellow (not sunflower yellow) to break up the potential too-muchness if I just used all pink. I like that, together with the pink and corals, the grouping feels like summer. Which is appropriate since the wedding is in July!
Cool Gray: Lest I start thinking of this wedding as a festival of femininity, the grays are there to ground me, to provide a solid, yet subtle base. They also help to cool the palette slightly, which I like because it symbolizes the transition from the daytime outdoor ceremony into the nighttime reception which is inside. I also adore the combination of pink and gray, so I definitely had to sneak that in there.
Navy: This one is for Josh specifically since it's in the running for his suit color. I want to incorporate him and what he might be wearing into the planning process, so this is a little reminder not to forget that aspect. It also adds a hit of classic and traditional, which is nice.
Dark Green: To symbolize that we will be having locally grown flowers and wildflowers on the tables at the reception (got to account for the color of the stems!) and that we'll be getting married in a garden. I don't imagine that this color will be used in anything besides those natural elements, but I think it's important to keep it in mind.
Wood Brown: This again speaks to surroundings—the floors of the reception venue are hardwood and there are dark beams overhead in the main room. So there is a lot of brown, and I think it's good to have that represented, especially as we start to plan decor. It's important to me that things not get too dark, so I think we're starting with a nice balance here.

I imagine that there will also be a fair amount of white around, so the inspiration photos help bring that in as well. I am printing this image out to be the first page of the binder—happy day!

Also, for the record, it's amazing what accomplishing a small, yet defined task can do to a girls mindframe. I had these colors in my head for weeks now, and getting them out to share with others (and to have them to look at myself!) has been quite joyful.

So on that note, I wish you a wonderful weekend. Be sure to check back for some big food related news here on Monday!

[Images clockwise from top left: My sincere apologies that I do not have record of the origins of this first one- if you know who it came from, please comment!; me; Color Me Pretty post from Decor8; Garden Party inspiration photo from OnceWed]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Falling for Knitwear by Janelle Haskin

Yes it's fall. Yes that means that the time is coming for new (and old) knitwear. But really, the main reason that I'm sharing a little photo tour of Janelle Haskin's work is because I am loving her photography! It really shows off her talented ways with yarn and spotlights her knit and crocheted goodies. Let's take a look!

Janelle lives outside of Philadelphia....

and she makes everything from gigantic fringe scarves that make me want to curl right up on the couch with a cup of tea to chunky scalloped edge neck warmers to little bow headbands.

All of her work is handmade to order, and from what I can tell, wearing one of her pieces might make you feel a little touch of Gossip Girl-esque fabulousness.

Images by the extremely talented Sharyn Frenkel who also shoots weddings and portraits, if you're in need and live in their area!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunday Bazaar Hits DSM

I popped over to check out the new Sunday bazaar in the East Village (well I actually went to pay a visit to the fine folks of At East Day Spa, but it was right outside!), and the event seemed to be a big success. While many crafty folks were selling their wares in Chicago at Renegade this weekend, our local makers set up in the street and sold everything from handmade wood furniture to fudge and accessories. It felt very grassroots and community-based, and it was nice to get a chance to see what more creative types around the city are up to.

This is the neighborhood where my friends Karen and Arin have their lovely shop Ephemera, it's home to a few of my favorite restaurants, and it's the neighborhood where we're having the wedding reception—so I'm a big fan!

I exerted some of my own making skills over the past two days and I'm happy to report that the wall hanging headboard is quilting up at lightning speed. This is by far the fastest item I've ever made, which is reminding me that sometimes small is definitely better. And, if I ever decide to try to sell my quilted goods, this scale (or even smaller) is by far the only way to do it. (Selling what I make has never been possible since my big quilts take about a year. But items that take 2 weeks? Possible!)

P.S. I made pear butter with free fruit from a friend's tree recently. Click here to read about it and find the crazy simple (no sugar added) recipe over on

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wedding Wisdom Update: 3 Lessons Already Learned

Roses in the garden where we'll have our ceremony
 Since I last wrote about the wedding planning process, we've made a few big strides. We have a dress plan set (more on that soon!), have a location for both the ceremony (a local rose garden, behind the museum where we had our first date) and the reception (a crazy cool space in the East Village of downtown Des Moines), and we've met with our first caterer option. I am relieved to have the venues settled and I love them.

The garden is more formal and traditional in all of it's floral glory, but it's also extremely open to interpretation as far as the flow of the ceremony goes.

The reception venue is rustic modern with exposed studs, beams and brickwork, and the main room is big enough for square dancing and our bluegrass band. Which were both a key part of our decision making process. And we can use whichever vendors we want, we get the keys to the place (so we can decorate!) on Friday morning, and it's walking distance from the hotel where I'm hoping most of our guests will stay.

From all of this, I have learned a few important lessons:

1. Keep it simple. This is partly because I do not want this wedding to be the sole focus of my life for the next 9 months and because it will just be easier for my brain to hold fewer details and decisions. To help me accomplish this, I have a fantastic and highly organized binder broken down into subjects ("flowers", "food", "rentals", etc) and a month-by-month schedule of what needs to be done. It's completely reassuring and I love the feeling of knowing exactly what we need to do when—and checking things off when we finish them!

Wedding binder, the "decor" section

2. No one will know what we don't do. Yes! This golden nugget of advice came from Kimberly and it is seriously my wedding mantra. And it's helpful because there are definitely a lot of voices sharing what we "should" do. But to be honest, I think less can be more when it comes to throwing a good party. As in I'm still not convinced that we need to add more flowers around the ceremony area to define the space. The space is pretty well defined, and it's a lovely garden after all. Maybe that's enough?

3. Be creative and take time to make decisions. After our first meeting with a caterer, the estimate was about $2k over what I had in my budget. Part of that is because of a chunk of change for a "beverage station" with water, iced tea and lemonade, and part is because gratuity and tax are included. But seeing those numbers, and knowing that we have rentals on top of it, is helping me to take things one step at a time.
Do we need to rent $16 tablecloths? Could I come up with vintage linens or kraft paper instead that would be a better use of money? Probably. Do I really want to spend $12.95 per dozen glasses when we could buy a dozen mason jars for less money AND have them to use for storage for years to come? I think so.

There is a fair amount of pressure to sign on the dotted line immediately, but the truth is that we have time, and we plan to use our time to figure out how we can make our day a reflection of us and our loved ones with the funds that we have. I think it helps that I definitely don't have the intention to throw the Best Wedding Ever. I just want it to be Really Fun. And Pretty. And full of Love.

I'm going to be using Fridays for the coming months to share some of our plans, so I hope that you'll stay tuned to that and be ready to offer advice!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Quilted Wall Hanging Headboard- Update #2

I was determined to use the weekend to get a good start on my wall hanging that will serve as the headboard in my guest room/office and boy did I. I find that every so often, I need uninterrupted hours working on a project like this (honestly, it's been a while), with perhaps, a cheesy (and awesome) dance movie playing in the background.

The two blocks that are the center of the piece are vintage, from the 1920s I believe, and I didn't realize until I started working with them how not square they were—it took me a really long time to get my subsequent pieces straight. It might surprise you to learn this, but I am not all that fond of nitty gritty details during piecing, which is mostly a factor of how much more I enjoy quilting. But I think it was a good thing for me to practice my patience and get it right. I actually took one of the apart entirely and started over since it was looking all wonky.

Imagine the quilted piece hung on the wall above the pillows...

Thankfully, I only planned to do two squares, so after about 4 hours* on both Sunday and Monday, I had the entire top pieced. Since then I have nearly finished quilting the inside of one of the blocks so I have a feeling this is going to quilt up really quickly. Which is thrilling!

I haven't made a quilted project for myself since I first learned to quilt nine years ago, so I'm really happy that I love this so much—and that I get to keep it! Plus, I think it's pretty great that I get to keep the tradition of quilting alive by incorporating these unfinished blocks into a new work of my own. I wish I knew who the woman was who made those blocks, but I'm pretty sure she'd like knowing that I find them to be so lovely.

*This would have taken about half of the time had my sewing machine been cooperating. The bobbin thread kept getting stuck below the actual bobbin, for reasons unknown to me, so rather than struggling with it/throwing it across the room, I simply hand stitched all of my pieces. I am not very mechanically inclined :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Brilliance of Breakfast Club and Birthdays

Today is a big day for birthdays in my family—Josh, a dear uncle, and an aunt all share the day. Which in my book calls for a serious celebration! And, two of our best friends happen to be in town so we're planning to do our celebrating a favorite local restaurant this evening.

But to start the day, I hosted breakfast club* so that my Des Moines friends could meet my New York friends, and so that everyone could wish Josh a very happy day as he left for work.

We nibbled on Apple Walnut Bread and Zucchini Chocolate Chunk Bread (both of which featured whole grains and just a touch of sugar!), gossiped, and got to know each other. And I reveled in having some of my very favorite people all in the same room.

It is a good day, to be sure, and I am eager to enjoy the holiday weekend. I wish you all some of the happiness, gratitude and love that I'm feeling today and a very relaxing weekend (especially for those of you on the East Coast- stay safe from Earl!).

*Breakfast club is a weekly ritual where 5 of my lady friends meet to share the morning meal before work. We rotate houses and occasionally change it up by going to a restaurant, but it's always a nice moment to check in with friends and start the weekend off right.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Emma Corcoran of Blue Day Designs on the Restorative Power of Portraiture

Mini Portrait on Tiny Canvas
Over the weekend I was telling Josh how I was feeling like I'd lost the thread here a little bit, that I wasn't quite sure what purpose I was serving to my bigger online community. Especially with more and more blogs out there. So I decided to tweak the way that I've been doing my Q&A's a bit to get to the heart of what I think is a big issue for all of us—how to balance our lives with our creative selves and find enough energy to do both things well. I wasn't expecting the first post to be so moving, but I'm thrilled to be able to share Emma's story today. The role of creativity in her life has had an enormous benefit—read on to find out how.

Name: Emma Corcoran 
Company: Blue Day Designs
Location: Ballarat, Australia

What sets your work apart?
I think I have a strong design element to my work.  In my portraits, I try to do something that represents the child well - but I also put a lot of consideration into the placement of the design on the canvas, how the portrait will fit into surrounding home decor, and the color of the image. I usually do my portraits in single colors (usually black and white) and I really like the boldness of this. 

I love my mini portraits just because they are so small.  I think capturing a child's personality in such a small space can make for a really special little artwork. 

Your Handwriting on the Wall
Why do you like working with children's imagery? And, what inspired you to start this line?
I used to be a piano teacher until I got a chronic illness (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), which has left me pretty much in bed for the past 10 years and unable to work.  When I stumbled across doing portraits, I realised it was something I could do from home when I had energy. 

I was really attracted to working with children's images for the same reason I enjoyed teaching piano - I wanted to do something that would make children feel special.  This is the same reason I do stenciled artworks using children's handwriting - I like the idea that children's writing can be 'art' and is valuable in its own right.

Medium Custom Portrait
How do you find balance between day to day life and finding time to be creative?
I spend most of my time resting in bed when I'm not working on my Etsy business.  So, I have a lot of down-time where I'm able to think of new ideas.  My frustration is that I don't have the energy to carry out all my ideas!

Mini Custom Portrait
  What benefits does creativity add to your life?
Enormous benefit - I used to be a musician, so now being more of an artist is another great outlet for my creativity.  I find that I really enjoy the balance of having a small business and doing marketing and customer relations  - and the actual process of creating portraits.

What would you make more of if you had more time?
I would love to do an exhibition of my portraits locally.