February 29, 2012

diy longing

I've come down with a serious case of the DIYs. The home improvement DIYs. I want to paint and refinish floors and knock down walls.

I blame it on Pinterest. And the fact that it's been almost one year since that little letter from Columbia arrived in our mailbox and rerouted our lives away from fix up the 1950's Cape and surrounding yard and towards apartment dwelling. I've even gone back to my habit of sitting in a room staring at it, trying to figure out what I should do to totally change it. I almost tried to convince Will that we should, for our final three (three!) months, rig up a murphy bed for ourselves in the kids room, build a half wall out of bookshelves in our room t0 give the kids two separate "rooms". All it would take is six giant bookshelves, two non bunk bed twin beds and a Murphy bed kit. No problem. Ok, maybe not worth it for three months (three months! Ack!)

So instead of painting walls that will have to be repainted back or, you know, taking a sledge hammer to a wall in a building that I do not own, I troll pinterest, and gaze longingly at real estate listings for crumbling old farmhouses and bungalows. Since we still don't know where we will live, and won't know for a while yet, I just pick random places that I think I'd like to live and see what's for sale. I keep finding myself rejecting houses because they are already done.

"Oh no, that kitchen is too new, I need something falling apart so that I can do it ALL OVER AGAIN!" (This is accompanied by a maniacal little laugh, the haha I'm insane kind of laugh)

"Oh look! Those floors need to be totally refinished! It's perfect!"

"Will! This one has a condemned barn in the back yard. Think of all the things we could do with a condemned barn! Or even just barn doors!"

It's a problem.

Will is still recovering from the last push of home renovation before the house sold, but I've got post-labor amnesia. I can't remember what it was like to spend all my free time hammering and replacing sinks and standing on a ladder painting yet another coat of trim. Ok, I remember it, but I can't remember not loving it.

I need a house so I can do this

And also this

And I want a kitchen like this one

or maybe this one.

Or maybe like none of them, maybe something else entirely.


I need to go....make something.

February 28, 2012

make em think your crazy

I don't really love riding the bus in New York. I like the idea of riding the bus, which is why I keep doing it, but I don't love the bus. While I can read, knit, iphone sudoku and stand on my hands (ok, not really) on the subway, I almost always get a little sick if I try to do any of those things on the bus, and since the bus is slower than the subway, I have more time on my hands to get bored.

Also, the crazy people ride the bus. Not all the crazy people, and not all the people on the bus are crazy, but most of the time there is at least one nutter amongst the riders. Or maybe that's just the routes I take.

But I still take the bus.

We are lucky to be three blocks from a one subway line and five from another but never the less, there are place where I regularly go that the subway doesn't. Like knitting night. On Mondays I spend a few hours camped out with other knitters in the dining area of Whole Foods. Aside from the fact that the ladies are lovely one and all, scooping me up into their group on first sight and making me feel like part of the gang, getting out of the house for a few hours a week to do something that is just me keeps me sane like nothing else. And to get there, I have to bus it. So in the for the sake of family sanity (it has nothing to do with my obsession with knitting, honest!) I ride.
Last night I was on my way home from knitting, sitting with the usual crowd of night time riders (one of them mumbling loudly to himself and another just looking like a maniac with his sticky out hair) with my little bag o' knitting and spinning gear as the slowest bus in creation rumbled toward my street. Bored. And since I can't knit or read on the bus without getting seasick, I decided to try spinning on the bus. Someone on a spindelers chat board (you didn't know that even existed, did you) claims to spin all over New York transit so I figured what the hey? Because, you know what? The worst that could happen is that people would think I'm crazy too.

And I realized (as I pulled out my drop spindle and got to work) being the crazy person on the bus has it's advantages. Like the fact that no one wants to sit with you! Though the bus began to fill as we crept our way uptown and though I kept the seat next to me free and clear, no one sat down with me, which is the New York transit equivalent of heaven. Sure, the guy with sticky out hair was breathing on my neck watching me work, but better that then having him decide to shift to the seat next to me, right?

I think I may be on to something. Maybe all those people aren't crazy at all, they just like to keep the seat to themselves. I wonder what would happen if I wore my blue wig everywhere?

February 27, 2012


Oh, there is nothing quite so rotten as the Monday morning after a weeks break. Heads burrowed under covered grumbling that it can not possibly be time to get up. We are too sleepy. We want just one more day to play. Sometimes it is the hardest thing for me to wake a snuggly, sleep baby, because when they are awake they don't want to be babies, but as long as they are alseep, curled up, soft and quiet, they are little still.
Alas, it's back to school for all of us.

At least there are tulips. How bad can it be when there are tulips?

February 24, 2012

snippits of the week

What a week we have had. After too many days of colds and flu and too much homework and daddy being gone, it was time for some fun.
On Monday we went way (way, way, way) out into Queens to the New York Hall of Science. Every time I go to Queens I have transit problems. This goes back to before we moved here, back to the last day of our honeymoon when the bus we were taking out to our hotel by the airport had a route change and dropped us off in the middle of nowhere Queens to fend for ourselves. I'm not even sure how we made it to our plane on time. This trip wasn't much different, with another route change, a train that just wasn't running and a loooooong trip both ways.
But once we got there we had a blast building molecules, messing with a stem vortex, shadow dancing and then, eventually, making our way out into the park to see the giant globe and taking the (obligatory) I'm holding the world in my hands photo.
We played with friends and made an army of peg people and Briton and Evie spent many MANY hours playing Harry Potter. Hogwarts fever has officially hit both of my kids and most of our days have been filled with "Expecto Patronum!" and "Stupify" coming loudly from their room.
Today is, I think, the only day where we have no where to go, or no plans to go anywhere at least. On top of the art museum, we also had a park play date and a marketing panel that Briton took part in at Nickelodeon which was, well, an interesting experience, and the library and another park and the Lego Store and whew, it's good to have a quiet day I think.
Monday will see us back to the school grind and I expect it will be a little bit of a rough start after a week full of silly fun. But it was worth it.
Now, I'm going to go curl up on the couch and read my new book to the dulcet tones of my children casting spells and building a mammoth Lego Harry Potter land.
Have a lovely weekend everyone.

February 23, 2012

field trip: children's museum for the arts

You know the frustration that comes when you find something GREAT at the end of a vacation? Something that would have made life easier, your trip more pleasant, you time there even better and you just want to kick yourself for not finding it sooner? Well, that was me, yesterday.
The Children's Museum for the Arts is a little gem of a kid friendly space tucked down in SoHo near absolutely nothing. You wouldn't' just happen to pass it because it's not really on the way to anything. We've been going to indoor soccer a block away from it for months and never realized it was there (darn it!) and the only reason we found it at all is that Briton's class in stop action filmmaking has been moved there for the next few weeks.

I'm sure it's in the guide books. It's probably listed in all of those books on my shelf that I gathered when we were moving here. I've probably flipped by the page with its entry a few dozen times. The thing is, there are SO MANY MUSEUMS HERE. (Poor me, I know) I'm almost positive I read the name and dismissed it as just another art museum. I'll get around to it. In the meantime there is the Met and the Guggenheim and the Rubin and MOMA and and and.
If it were me, writing those guidebooks, I wouldn't call it the Children's Museum for the Arts, I'd call it If Your Kids Like Any Kind of Art GO HERE! or Do Not Skip This One! I keep thinking of all those too rainy, too hot, too cold, too windy days when we didn't go anywhere because what we needed was a place where wiggly, active kids could be creative and loud and squirmy, something that is in short supply in the city.

Staffed by "Teaching Artists" the place is filled with slightly nutty, exuberant young artists who are experts at guiding kids without doing the art for them. I was amazed at how patient they were, especially given the school's out for the week crowd that was there yesterday. Briton disappeared into the film studio and spent the whole day working on different kinds of animation (it was dark, I couldn't take pictures in there, but he was there, trust me) while Evie visited most of the art studios and stations, trying out watercolors, acrylics, puppet making, clay sculpture, dry erase crayons (I didn't even know they existed!), pastels, stamps and probably some other things that I'm forgetting.
Aside from being a ton of fun, the museum is just plain well run, well thought out. It is virtually impossible to loose your child in it because of the layout. Even with two kids doing two very different activities I didn't feel worried that I might loose one. They had places to leave your coat (thank you!) and free bags to carry home your art (Thank you! thank you!) and benches scattered around with interesting art and information about the art so that the grownups can sit now and then. They also had a quiet room, which we didn't use, and a ball pit full of yoga balls for getting the wiggles out between art projects - we did use that one.

The only downside of the day - other than the fact that my camera battery ran out twenty minutes in and I had no camera - is that I really wish I had known about this place earlier. Not that we are leaving tomorrow, but oh, so many times that we could have used a space to go and spend the day painting and sculpting and gluing buttons onto socks and launching ourselves into a pile of giant balls. Ah well.

If you are bringing children to New York, I would highly recommend it. And if, while you are there, you happen to pass a food truck called Frites and Meats, stop for some fries with wasabi mayo because, YUM, those were good too.

February 22, 2012

in print

The new issue of Living Crafts Magazine is out with the official (and revised) Eliza Pattern inside.

Evelyn was pretty tickled to see her baby smiling up at her from the pages of a magazine, and I have to admit, I was too.
I also had an article in their fall issue but there was a mix up with my copy and so I'll have to share it when it lands in my mailbox in a week or so. While the Eliza pattern has a few of my photos (for the hair tutorial) most are by a professional photographer. The other article is all my photos which is pretty exciting. I can't wait for it to arrive so I can see it in person as well!

February 21, 2012

little pretties

I am indecisive about my hair. I think I always have been. Long. Short. Up. Down. Bangs. No bangs.
I'm assuming here that I'm not the only one. I've always been a little jealous of people who have the same hairstyle year in and year out. They've found what works for them while I'm still looking in the mirror trying to decide if it's time to chop it all off, or lamenting that I just chopped it all off. Or wondering if I wouldn't look better with brown/red/really blond hair.

This year I've been letting my hair grow out. In part because I've spent the last few years with it shortish, but mostly because if I'm letting it grow, I don't have to pay for a New York haircut. A plan that was backed up by Briton's worst ever haircut (it was really, REALLY awful) for which we paid $50 and then had to come home and fix with clippers and crossed fingers.

I did, however, have bangs cut this fall, and I really love them. Except when I don't. See. I told you. I'm indecisive.
All this indecisiveness has led me to a new love of bobby pins. Other than securing buns, I've never really been a bobby pin girl. I'm not very adept at making them disappear into my hair, so there they sit saying "I can't control my hair, so I put five hundred pins in it to make it look slick even though it doesn't, because there are five hundred pins making it look not slick."

Then along came Pinterest and it's hair tutorials and I suddenly figured out bobby pins were pretty useful, especially if they were nice looking bobby pins. But I'm cheap (see growing hair out to avoid hair cut costs) and they are bobby pins. They get lost.
So here are my three varieties of DIY bobbies.
The first, and the fastest, is to paint regular old bobby pins with Nail Polish. I know! Easy, right? I used the super fast drying variety and even with three coats I think these took all of five minutes to make.
Next we have the bevel variety. These larger circles have a small edge to them which means you can fill them with something. I've tried beads, paper circles and glitter and all have worked well with the addition of some Triple Thick Glaze to seal it all in and make it look resin-like.
Finally we have the bejeweled style. I keep an eye out for good deals in the ever expanding bead aisle of my local Michael's and usually find something pretty in the under a dollar range. Some of these are actually beads, some are meant to be mounted and the green ones started out as clearance earring (99 cents). I used wire cutters to nip off the posts before mounting them.

The trick with all three is to have the pins stay relatively flat while they dry and the best way to keep them flat is to slip them onto cardboard, a small box is best but some heavy duty cardstock will work almost as well.

I still have gobs of the blanks, especially of the bevel variety. Any ideas for what I should try next?

February 17, 2012

snippits of the week

This morning as I walked Evelyn to school I realized that it felt decidedly spring-like outside. It was still cold, colder than yesterday in fact, and windy, and wet. But something felt, different. The sun look brighter instead of the weak gray light I've gotten used to, and the little garden across from the cathedral had little bits of green showing though all the brown brown brown. Or maybe it's just that, after almost three weeks of feeling like crud I gave in and went to the doctor for antibiotics and lo and behold, two days later, I'm better. Amazing what the right medicine can do.

Last night Evie and I were playing around with chalking our hair. I'm not sure we had the best chalk for the job, but it was pretty fun. Purple bangs led quickly to "can you paint my fingernails pink and purple?" and then, "can I play with daddy's guitar?" and then an interesting version of "On Top of Old Smoky." which featured Matzah instead of Meatballs.

We've had a quiet week. And indoor week. With early nights and Lego extravaganzas in the bedroom and scrabble tournaments in the living room, which was nice, but I think we're all ready to be out an about next week while Evie is off of school (New York schools have a mid winter break since spring break is laaaate in the spring and school doesn't get out till the end of June) and now that we are all well. Knock on wood. Oh please don't let any of us get sick again for a while.

Tonight we are so excited to see The Secret World of Arrietty. I loved The Borrowers when I was younger and I've been reading the second book to the kids lately so I can't wait to see how the movie turns out. As much as we love My Neighbor Totoro, I think this might become our new favorite Ghibli movie. Yay for weekends!

February 16, 2012

I've figured it out. I wasn't meant to be a time traveling historian after all. And I'm not living in the wrong century either.

Just the wrong town.

February 14, 2012

real actual yarn

I plied my first yarn over the weekend, which makes it sound like I know what I'm doing with this spinning thing, but trust me, I don't. I spent most of the time holding a spinning book open with my foot while I wrestled with two overly twisty strands of thin (and then thick and then really thin and then sort of thin - consistency isn't my strong suit at this point) fiber, trying to twist them the opposite way they wanted to go into a usable yarn.
I told Will yesterday, as I sat on the couch spinning away, that I'm kind of useless in this century. I recently read a book about historians (in the distant future) who travel back in time to study the past first hand. They have to acquire all kinds of skills to fit into the era to which they are traveling. I'd be perfect for that. Drop me into the olden days and I'd be just fine. Making my own yarn and sweaters and cheese. Ok, I don't know how to make cheese. Yet. It's on my to do list though.

Eventually I got it all twisted the right way, onto my swift and then into a warm water bath to help set the twist. When I took it out of the water it was still twirling up into a horrible birds nest of a mess which led me to the invention of the yarn straightenouterer. Catchy, isn't it?
But I will say that once it was dry and straight, it looked remarkably like yarn. Real yarn. It's not a whole lot of yarn since I'm not very adept at handling longer amounts on my spindle yet, but enough to make something small or lacy or both out of. I haven't decided what, but it needs to become something I think.

I'm now working on a different type of fiber, the first was merino and silk, nice and soft, and now I'm trying out Corrinedale (again, that sounds like I know more than I do, I'm just reading the tag here, but I think it's a kind of sheep) and next I have some alpaca to try. The theory being that I'll try small bits of a lot of different fibers and figure out what I like to spin best and then order a whole bunch of it.

Or get that kind of sheep to live in the front yard of our someday house.

I'm good with either option.

Any spinners out there with advice of other types of fibers to try? At this point I'm just ordering what comes in small amounts for not very much money on Etsy but I'd love suggestions.

February 13, 2012

a blissful, lazy morning

Saturday morning I either exhibited brilliant or terrible parenting skills, depending on your point of view. By Friday night, Will had been on a class trip to Ghana (yes, the Africa one - who goes there on a class trip?) for one full week, with three days to go and I was, well, a little beat. Seven days of true solo parenting and not just daddy is really really busy solo parenting plus three cases of the flu had worn me out. So before I sent them to bed, I made a rule for the morning.
"You can play Wii from the time you get up tomorrow until the time that you wake me up."

In other words, let your mother sleep.

When I was young, I reveled in my Saturday morning solo cartoonathons. I loved getting up before everyone else to watch exactly what I wanted, to make myself the breakfast I wanted, to have the house quiet and, in a way, all to myself. But my kids have never had any interest in that. They don't want to be up alone. They want someone (me) to be up with them. Neither of them is a very early riser so at least they aren't shaking me awake at the crack of dawn, but still, it would be nice to have a good old laze about now and then.
I actually woke up long before they "woke" me. I snuck into the kitchen to make coffee and then brought the tray back to bed with me, opened the curtains to watch the snow falling outside and curled back up with the worlds laziest dog at my feet.

Even after they knew I was "awake" and I'd sent them off to play something other than Wii, I stayed put. A little knitting, a little dreaming. I read a whole book. A short book, but still the whole thing. Cover to cover. The sad and beautiful Coventry by Helen Humphreys. Much like the last book I read of hers The Lost Garden, Coventry was somehow detached, like reading an echo. I think it had all of 90 pages, including all the blank pages between chapters, but there is something delicious about reading a whole book in one sitting. I remember the last time I did it. I was reading Home, sitting in a chair in our rented house in Charlottesville and I kept thinking I'd put it down at the end of the chapter, except it had no chapters, so I didn't put it down till the end.
Somehow I doubt I could recreate such a lazy day every week. Too many soccer games, grocery trips, things that need to be seen and done for it to be a long standing habit. But oh, it was blissful while it lasted.

February 9, 2012


The winter yuck has been making its merry way through our house this week. It started with Evie getting a dramatic fever (that girl never ever has a slight fever, it's 104 or bust) and then made it's way to Briton and now has taken me down. Such fun. The good news is it's not rush to the doctor type of sick, it's just feeling lousy, falling asleep while you are supervising homework kind of sick. Poorly seems to describe it perfectly.
The hardest part of being sick in numbers (aside from hating to see my babies feeling bad, of course) is that I have a hard time keeping track of who had what dose of medicine when. This particular flu has brought the kind of fevers that are hard to keep down, necessitating the old alternating Advil and Tylenol trick. I usually scrawl things down on a piece of paper that inevitably gets lost and then I panic and wait a few extra hours before giving them their next dose just in case. So I kind of wanted to kick myself when I thought of this idea, it seems so obvious. Why haven't I been doing this for years? Dry erase marker on the medicine cabinet mirror! I've been writing down the who, the what, the how much and the when each time I get medicine out of the cupboard, which was particularly handy yesterday when my own brain went all fuzzy with fever and I had to add myself to the list.

Now, off to make some tea and snooze on the couch. All this typing is wearing me out.

February 8, 2012


I've been spinning a lot lately. After picking it up in the summer, I put my little bag o' fiber and spindle away in November when I was too busy knitting away for the holidays to do any spinning and I sort of, forgot about it. Most of what I know about knitting and all of what I've learned about spinning has come from Youtube. I'm a visual learner so reading phrases like "draft out the fibers" doesn't do much for me. I need to see it to understand it, which makes Youtube my friend. What did we knitters and crafters do before Youtube and Pinterest? We probably got more done since we weren't spending all our free time online trying to figure out the difference between Andean Plying and Navajo Plying (I don't know the answer to that, by the way, plying techniques are next on my to-figure-out list).
The evening before Vogue Knitting Live, my darling friend Stephanie and I went to a cocktail party at a local knitting store where we drank all clear beverages, ate non-oily and non-staining snacks and met Debbie Bliss. While we sat and talked and fondled yarn, I got into a conversation with two ladies who were chatting away while they spinning on drop spindles. I was fascinated. Youtube is great but seeing it in person was much better. I stared. A lot. And asked stupid, novice questions. And realized how far I had to go.
At the end of the night I was wavering between "I must go home and try to spin like a real spinner" and "Hopeless, give up now, you'll never spin like that." My spindle stayed put in my under the couch yarn storage.
But the other night I got all inspired and took it out again and suddenly - spinning, real spinning. I think my brain had just been marinating what I saw and suddenly, the whole concept of drafting and fiber length and plying and spinning made sense. In one fell swoop I went from wobbly thick yarn to wobbly fine yarn. (Yes, you would think the thick is what you are after but if you look at commercial yarn, it's made up of multiple strands -which, I've learned recently are called singles - that are twisted together - that's plying - so thin is what you want.) And now I can't put it down. It's meditative and calming and the only problem now is that I can't decide if I want to knit or spin when I sit down in the evening. I now resemble a knitting shop, or maybe a sheep, what with the piles of yarn and fiber that accumulate around me whenever I stop moving. If you don't hear from me, just assume that I've been swallowed whole by the wool.

February 7, 2012

little felt collar: a tutorial

We got a letter home a few days ago from Evie's school reminding us of the uniform policy. I suspect there has been a bit of a mid-winter rebellion when it comes to the uniforms, some of the girls in her class have started wearing pink and purple tights, especially toward the end of the week when clean uniform pieces are thin on the ground. I know I've been tempted. But Miss Evelyn loves her uniform, for whatever reason. I'm not sure if it's the ease of not choosing in the morning or the "this is my school costume" thing or the fact that when she isn't in her uniform, we let her wear whatever she wants, which she really loves (striped tights, plaid skirt, flower shirt, color block sweater! Whew! We are into patterns!)But whatever it is, she has no objections to putting on her uniform each morning.
But when I looked over the note I realized that we had, without knowing it, been breaking the "rules". Light blue collared shirts. Collared was underlined. Woops. When the cold weather hit I picked up some long sleeved t-shirts for her, which, since they are t-shirts, have no collars. I'm not super stressed about it, we could always layer up the T under her collared shirts, but when I saw this on Pinterest I couldn't resist.

The original pattern was far too big for my little bitty girl, so I thought I'd share how I drafted a pattern for one her size, just in case your little girl needs a pretty felt collar. I used a heavy, 100% wool felt for this because it's what I had in the house. But if I had it to do again I'd probably go down to Purl Soho and get a sheet of the nice soft wool felt they have. Its thinner so I think it would drape a little better.
You'll need to start with some kind of collared shirt or dress that fits well in the neck - not too loose or too tight. For Evie's, I used one of her party dresses with a Peter Pan style collar. Pin one side of the collar, as flat as you can, to a piece of paper. Use plenty of pins so that it stays smooth. Trace around the outside of the collar and then use the pin to prick through the fabric into the paper along the inner edge. When you unpin, connect the pin pricks to make the half collar shape.

It's less crucial that the outer edge of the collar is the shape you want, that's easy to alter, what you really want is the inner curve and some idea of how wide you want to collar to be. In a pinch, you could even use a t-shirt to get that inner curve and then just play around with the shape of the collar itself.
Once you have the basic shape of the collar down, you can add that cute scalloped edge by tracing the curve of a teaspoon along the edge. Start at the back and work toward the front, this way you can add a little to the front edge as necessary to make the curves end evenly. I left a little tail where the fronts would connect, but you could bring the curve right to the edge if you like.
Try the paper pattern on a few times to make sure its the right shape and then pin to your fabric and cut the two pieces out.
Evie and I went button stash diving and came up with a few possibilities for the front and the back button, somehow I knew we'd pick the flower as soon as I spotted it in the bag.
Stitch the front edges together firmly and then sew the button on.
Instead of a ribbon to connect the back which would, frankly, be a disaster with a five year old, I used a shank button and a loop of elastic.

She likes.
Now, whether it will stay on all day is anyones guess, but at least I sent her to school all uniformed up.