Sunday, July 29, 2007

Park It

Yesterday Pete thought it would be fun to take Andrew to Pullen Park in Raleigh for the afternoon. We'd only been once before, last year, and he was too young at that point to appreciate anything. Silly baby.

When I was a reluctant city-dweller, I secretly held the belief that only urban folk had a need for a park. Why would other children need a park, I reasoned, when they had the luxury of a back yard?? But there I was, back in a park, really loving it. The value of a park in any setting became immediately obvious to me: Basically, it's fun to be around lots of other people having fun. Duh.

This park is full of goodness, and in my mind the carousel from 1911 is worth the trip. It's so, so beautiful, and the animals are elegant and vivid and even a little scary. The horses' tails are real horse hair and it is in remarkable condition considering its 100th birthday is right around the corner. Andrew didn't know what to make of the carousel, though, and Pete ended up sitting in a chariot with him while I rode my trusty steed.

They also have a little train that you can ride around the perimeter of the park, an activity much more Andrew's speed, and just like the wee ones, I too was sad when our little ride came to an end.

Since this is NC, land of Andy Griffith and Mayberry, they have a lovely bronze statue of father and son, walking together, carrying fishing poles. My mother watched this show every single night of my life while making dinner. Here's a little Opie:

There is no admission to the park, but I would have paid one just to have overheard the follow exchange between two 7-yr-old boys while waiting in line for the concession stand:
Boy 1: (arms flailing about, legs restless) This is the longest line I've ever been in!!!
Boy 2: (with superiority) Well, then you haven't seen the Dollar Store at Christmas Time!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Art vs Craft Throwdown

It finally dawned on me this morning while walking through my home that I spend so much time flaunting my craft projects that I have never even mentioned that I'm surrounded by other artists in my life. My mother is a painter and my husband is too, and here I've never really even given them the props they deserve. Shame on me. But it's my blog and I'll dwell on myself if I want to.

by my mother, hanging in our living room

Pete did this one while I was in Paris a few years ago.

Another one by my mother, hanging in our hallway

I really love this one. She did it for our half-bath, of all places.

I've been thinking more and more about craft and art. Growing up, my mother appeared to have drawn a very dark, thick line between the two. Although much may have been lost in translation to my young mind, I gleaned from her the opinion that craft was the purvey of those who crocheted padding on coat hangers and decorated light bulbs as Santa Claus. Art, on the other hand (a camp into which she has two feet firmly planted) was something all together different. It involved a particular vision, a specific subset of had value just because it is, not because it has a practical function.

As someone who loves to create, this stigma against crafts left me feeling confused. I didn't think (and still don't) that I am blessed with the gift of being a fine artist. I can't draw or sculpt or paint... When I visit art museums I gaze upon the works with the same wonder that I feel when I see a spaceship launch or an Olympic athlete perform - the ability to do those things completely eludes me. But I still had this very strong desire to create beautiful (often functional) things, so where did that leave me? I often felt inwardly ashamed of my passion for craft - like I was playing for the intramural team because I couldn't make the Fine Art Varsity team. (**For the record, I must add that I received nothing but adoration and encouragement from my mother in any creative endeavor, blah, blah...not blamin' anything on Mom.)

I secretly have held onto those childhood prejudices until very, very recently. Being a part of an online craft community has literally changed my life, and I become very emotional even writing about it. For the first time I feel that my craft is art. It may never hang in a museum or be auctioned by Christie's, but I am proud of what I create and it makes my home a richer place. Moreover, I now see the crafts of others and experience that "museum" feeling - I am in awe, moved by the expression of their talents. The work that other fine crafters produce has somehow liberated me, validated my own creations, set me free.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Have I mentioned how much company we've had this summer? Sooooo much company. Pete and I were counting last night and we have had only 7 days in almost the last 5 weeks without visitors. It's been really fun and boy - has it made the summer fly by - but now the last of our scheduled company is gone and I am without purpose. No real incentive to keep the house tidy, no meals to prepare, no pillowcases to iron. It's both a relief and a disappointment.

A while back I posted a picture of this banner:

It's a design I came up with after admiring similar types of pendants and banners. Yesterday I took one that I had designed specifically for The Red Hen to DeeDee, its owner, and she wants to start selling them in the store. I'm still making the baby cloths like gangbusters too, but it's always nice to diversify a little. Keeps me from sleepwalking through my studio.

I guess I am going to go and get to work on them, alone in the house, save for a sleeping baby and the lovely energy of ghosts of visitors past.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This American Life

In yet another hefty leap onto a bandwagon that nearly passed me by, I have to tell you that I cannot listen to enough episodes of This American Life. I love them all. I love Ira Glass. I love listening to any of the tales: from the inside of Chicago's Golden Apple Diner to those family legends that, retold to generation after generation, morphed into an all together fabulous story. Most of all I love that it is on the radio (even though, ironically, I listen to it on the internet). I know, I know, rumor has it you can find it on Showtime, but I just want to listen. What's the frequency, Ira?

I listened to the "Special Ed"-themed show today while performing a minor overhaul of my studio space. This was not an Extreme Makeover. It was more of a Slap-a-Little-Lipstick-On Makeover. A few weeks ago I found out that our local Pier 1 Outlet was going out of business and not only was clearing out everything on the shelves, they were clearing out the shelves themselves! So for $30 I got 2 pretty incredible display cabinets to stack my stuhf in. You know, my fabric stuhf, my notion stuhf, my crafty stuhf. And of course, the amount of stuff you have automatically and obligingly expands in direct proportion to the space you've allotted to store it. Even though I don't feel like I have alot more room now, I do think things are more organized and accessible. In the deepest, most obscure recesses of my being I lust for a type of neurotic organization, although precious few examples of my secret desire can be identified in my life.

p.s. I have been crocheting little cakes like some kind of crazy crafter-baker on crack, and I will post them soon. Norma Lynn wrote me the sweetest little note after my last post. Gotta love her.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

ch1, sc around

Okay. I am just going to admit it. I used to be a bit of a crochet....what should I call it? Ah, yes. A crochet snob. In my own defense, I have knitted for about half my life (in striking contrast to my music preferences, long before it became trendy) and never quite got the hang of crochet. Thus I deemed it an inferior craft to knitting, as it so obviously must have been since I couldn't do it.

My interest in crochet had been growing for the last few months, and I was particularly fascinated by all of the unbelievable 3-D structures that can so easily be crocheted. More than that, I started to be drawn to the texture of crocheted pieces, their weight and knotty appearance. However, I still had my reservations since I had not fully recovered from the trauma of Nick John's failed attempts to teach me how to crochet hacky-sacs during my freshman year at Wake.

But when I stumbled onto Norma Lynn's crocheted confections, I was so overcome with glee and lust that I vowed that I *would* teach myself to crochet, like it or not.

First of all, let me just tell you that Norma Lynn might just be the nicest lady to ever draw breath. I wrote to her in a panic after my first attempt at making her little cakes yielded a design akin to a large yarmulke. I told her it was her fault that I was in this mess because her patterns were just so daggum cute that I couldn't restrain myself. She wrote me back within hours, and not only did she give me some really excellent advice, she was so positively flattered that I would find her inspirational! Excuse me, Norma Lynn - have you seen your cakes? They are just the most fabulous crochet creations I have about ever laid eyes on. And she donates the proceeds to animal charities. If her little desserts were real, they could not be sweeter than Norma Lynn.

The first thing I crocheted became a little do-hickey for the table. Honestly, it was the top of a failed cake (art imitating life?) that was saved from being completely ripped up to salvage yarn.

The second thing I made was this little cake sachet (I know, it's lopsided and not quite done, but not too bad for my first real project, eh?).

My third project I did in about 40 minutes this afternoon, by myself, with not even a pattern to guide me. I just tried to duplicate one of Norma Lynn's precious desserts. It's really, really tiny.

I love crochet!!! Yea for Crochet!! I've only known how to do it for 2 days now but I think I am caught - crochet hook, line, and sinker.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I recently saw a T-shirt that said I listen to bands that don't even exist yet. I have a handful of friends who pride themselves on that very achievement, but I am so not one of those people. One of two things usually happens when I think I have found a wonderful artist or album: either everyone is like, "Duh - we know" - or - "They are sooooo overrated".

So I am not going to even embarrass myself by claiming to have found a diamond in the rough in Martin Sexton's new album, Seeds, I will only say that it has been a long, long time since I have enjoyed a CD this much. (Readers insert thoughts about my music taste here.)

It's the kind of music that you want to have on when the weather's balmy and you haven't got a care in the world. Or at least when you wish those things were true.

I'm a really crappy dancer, but that album makes me want to grab a cold one, tie up my shirttails and shake that thang.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Queasy Need not Read

Stephanie, one of my dearest girlfriends, one of The Most Succulent Women of All Time, Living or Dead, came to visit on Thursday with her family. I was at her son's birth almost 4 years ago and have not seen him or his lovely mama (or papa or little sis) in 2 whole years. The thought of it brings a tear to my eye.

Alex, age 4 (almost)

Ruby, age 2

Stephanie's birthday was on Wednesday and I promised to continue the celebration onto the next day, as all birthday celebrations should rightly proceed. I decided to make her Nigella's chocolate cheesecake, a treat befitting the Queen of Succulence. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to make it to any good grocery stores around here so after dinner I headed off to our local place, the Food Lion. Or, as it's known in this house, the Hood Lion. We actually live in a pretty nice neighborhood, but this grocery store is pretty rough. Pete and I joke about it.
Por ejemplo:
  • If your checker-outer is named Destynie and her fingernail length prevents her from ringing up your items correctly, you might be in the Hood Lion.
  • If the person in front of you has 4 children and has placed on the belt 12 2-liter bottles of grape soda and an extra-large bag of generic Cheetos, you might be in the Hood Lion.
  • If the guy behind you starts to cuss a blue streak because he left his wallet in his pick-up and can't purchase a case of Milwaukee's Best Beer, you might again be in the Hood Lion.
Not very sweet of me, eh? But I digress. When Stephanie and her delicious family showed up at my door I had to choke back tears and I thought my heart would burst. A few times in my life I have had the experience of not seeing a beloved in a long time, and then once I see their face in person it's like a familiar shock of recognition - like they're just so completely vivid and vibrant and there.

Even though I am a nurse-midwife, anyone who knows me will tell you that I defy some midwife-stereotypes. I, for example, am only crunchy-granola on the
inside. I don't smell of patchouli, wear Birkenstocks, or smoke pot. Stephanie is intimately connected with all-things childbirth (a childbirth educator, doula, lactation counselor, infant massage therapist, birthed her second at home) yet is even less crunchy than I am. She lives in Boca Raton, for goodness sake! I had to teach her how to bargain shop! This girl is full of contradictions. So when she parked the car, hugged me and Andrew and then thrust a small cooler in my hands, I could only assume what was inside. Her placenta from her last birth. Frozen. She's in the process of moving from OH back to FL and was transporting it. The cooler looked very official - like there might as well be a beating heart or some corneas in it.

I am loathe to tell you, less you think I am a complete freak, that I too have my placenta stashed in my deep freeze. Not to ingest or anything, just to maybe plant a tree over (although the threat of it does come in handy when Pete complains there's nothing to eat). I knew that I could not let Steph's visit pass without documenting the crunchy just oozing out from us. So here it is, the birth-junkies and their frozen placentas. (they're in bags - don't worry!)

The visit was far, far too short, but my home has such lovely residual energy from her family's visit. Miss you, miss you, miss you, girl.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


There's been a lot of change in my life lately and the other day I was talking with a friend about how external change can really cause a change throughout. I shared with her that the older I get (and certainly after becoming a mother), I was trying to shed some of my harsher edges and become....what's the word?....I couldn't find the right one, so I just said, "sweet." I hate the saccharine connotation of the word, but for some reason it seemed the right adjective to choose.

Nearly days later, and right on cue, as books have always been with me, I was reading Michael Pollan's
The Botany of Desire and found this beautiful paragraph. It took my breath away when I read it, as it completely captured what I was trying to express to my friend. To share:

Sweetness is a desire that starts on the tongue with the sense of taste, but it doesn't end there. Or at least it didn't end there, back when the experience of sweetness was so special that the word served as a metaphor for a certain kind of perfection. When writers like Jonathan Swift and Matthew Arnold used the expression "sweetness and light" to name their highest ideal (Swift called them the "two noblest of things"; Arnold, the ultimate aim of civilization), they were drawing on a sense of the word sweetness going back to classical times, a sense that has largely been lost to us. The best land was said to be sweet; so were the most pleasing sounds, the most persuasive talk, the loveliest views, the most refined people, and the choicest part of any whole, as when Shakespeare calls spring the "sweet o' the year." Lent by the tongue to all the other sense organs, "sweet," in the somewhat archaic definition of the Oxford English Dictionary, is that which "affords enjoyment or gratifies desire." Like a shimmering equal sign, the word sweetness denoted a reality commensurate with human desire: it stood for fulfillment.

Perfect. Beautiful. Sweet.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Total Joy

Ooooohhh, boy! It has been busy in our little house! It seems like we've had one big revolving door this summer, with friends and family stopping by to stay a bit and then off on their way. Last week Pete's brother and sister-in-law came with their two kiddos for several days. The "little ones" are now 11 and 13, ages that seem incomprehensible to me since they were in our wedding 5 years ago and seemed to be getting too big then! They were a total joy to have about and Andrew thought he was in baby-heaven with all the activity and attention.

I'd made French vanilla ice cream for dessert the first night they were here and both of the kids exclaimed that it was the best vanilla ice cream they had ever eaten (emphasis theirs). So I got busy the next morning and stuck them both in the kitchen with me to make the best chocolate ice cream of all time. It then, of course, became the best chocolate ice cream they had ever eaten. They flatter me so.

Of course we went to get BBQ (or just Q, as it's known around here) and then we took them to the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh. Hard to say who enjoyed that museum more, the kids or their biology-major-dork aunt. I think that place is so amazing because everything is fantastically larger than life, exactly the way all my memories of childhood seem.

This is from a butterfly exhibit. Some of these are chrysalises. Chrysalis. Prettiest word ever.

Oh, couldn't you just melt? This is a photo of a photo taken by Brooks de Wetter Smith. It's called Whiskers.

We had pizza parties and played poker and monkey-in-the-middle in the pool. It was fantastic to have some older kids around as it gave me an itsy-bitsy gimpse of what it's like to have older children. So, so much fun.

I made Lemon Bread Pudding French Toast which I found on the delicious food blog Cream Puffs in Venice. It was to die for.

After they left on Sunday we took Andrew to a big birthday bash for the 5 babes in our playgroup who are turning one this month. It was such a sweet get-together and tons of fun was had by all. Check out my mama friends - aren't they just beautiful??

I want to thank those who sent me such kind words about my little quilt. Craft blogs are filled with such gorgeous creations that I am often insecure about showing mine, but you've given me a boost of confidence! xoxo to you.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Suzanne's Quilt

Things are really busy here right now since we have a houseful of delightful company, but I wanted to post a quick pic of the little mini quilt I made for my sister. I first saw this quilt on Hillary's site and was so appreciative that she pointed me in the direction of the pattern at BHG. I pieced it all together in one day (one evening, really - after which I scurried off to the birth center to assist at a late-night's that for productive?) and then tried my hand at the quilting part. I'm not very good at that. I can't figure out how to drop my feed dogs and lessen my foot pressure without getting really tight stitches. Any suggestions?

But the important thing is that my sister just loved it, and I am so glad that she'll have something hanging in her room all the way back in LA to remind her just how special she is.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


One of my favorite blogs is I Hate Laundry, which I was attracted to initially because of its title. I don't think it's appropriate to say that I hate laundry. Perhaps it's more appropriate to say that I loathe it. I've tried all sorts of things to get me to relish (or at least tolerate) the experience: a new washer (nope), a Martha-would-be-proud makeover of our laundry room (nope), a menagerie of detergents and dryer sheets (nope).

I hate doing laundry. But here's a caveat: I love to iron my pillowcases. And I do. Everytime I wash them, with lavender-scented spray. I'm often a little embarrassed to admit that I do this, less others would assume that my household is, in any other even little way, subject to maintenance of this extravagance.

Ironically, I hate to iron just about anything else (except dinner napkins) and I literally cannot recall the last time any item of my clothing was kissed with an iron's fiery weight, but ironing my pillowcases and slipping into sleep upon slick, smooth pillows is a little bit heavenly.

Now for some wrinkles I am really into:

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Not So Great

Here's the third installment of my projects from The Crafter's Companion. I made this little market tote for one of my girlfriends after months of her visibly pining for every little thing I'd made, me unable to believe she'd want any of it. But here it is. You asked for it, Allyn.

This pattern was designed by Anna Torborg herself, and it's a really nifty little sac, although I must admit that, alas, I am not so pleased with it. My disappointment has nothing to do with the pattern or the directions, which were crystal-clear and fully illustrated, but entirely to do with the fact that I am a complete loser in the game of anything even remotely garment-related. If we'd played Garment-Making in 3rd grade PE, I would have been chosen last. Or sat the bench. Someone would have yelled to me, "Get your head out of your @#$!" like my friend's father screamed to him when he was a little bitty tot on the soccer field.

I would love nothing more than to be able to construct clothing deftly, but I am not particularly detail-oriented or patient, 2 qualities apparently essential to this type of skill. Shamefully, I spent all last Sunday making a dress that ended up being (at least) 2 sizes too small because I hadn't measured myself properly before cutting the material. Why bother with the details when - Whooppeeeeeee!! - I can just start into the fun part?? I always attack projects with greased britches, unwilling to dwell in minutiae, barrelling toward the finishing stitches.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Big Love

Please don't hate me because I have a husband who will willingly clean out the refrigerator, unprodded, with only minimal eye-rolling when he turns one of the shelves upside down and sees that the jar of lemon curd hangs on tightly, like a DQ Blizzard, because someone didn't wipe up the sweet tea that leaked throughout the fridge. Ages ago.