Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sweet Summer Pretties- five Etsy faves (and a bonus)

We're heading into the last days of summer, sadly. August is my favorite month, but it's always a little bittersweet because I know it will be over before I know it and then it's back to the grind of the cold. Still, there's a little time to grab onto these last lovely days and savor them. And here's a few of my favorite summer lovelies from Etsy.

I love this necklace from little black rabbitt. The artist uses one of my favorite things- old tin tray and arranges them into a sweet but simple necklace.

What can I say about this print from thewheatfield other than it's so pretty and I want one?

I adore those stacking vintage mugs and this set of four from Vintage Reinvented is particularly pretty. Perfect for sitting on the balcony, sipping coffee on summer mornings. Or, more likely, in the winter time, inside, dreaming of summer days past and yet to come.

I love theseRainbow colored party poms from Party Poms . I'd hang them up in my dining room and every day would feel like a party, wouldn't it?

Check out her Petite Poms too.

I don't iron. Life is far too short for that. But I do sew sometimes, and you need an ironing board for that. This ironing board cover by City Chic Country Mouseis so lovely and sweet. It might almost make you forget that you've already ripped out and resewn that stupid seam five times already and still haven't gotten it right.

And a bonus favorite from Toybreaker, for the guys, and other tie wearing folks. Not sweet at all. But with clipper ships. I have an enduring love for clipper ships and other tall ships from the golden age of sail.

We've already got our tickets for Tall Ships Chicago on one of the last weekends of the summer. I love this event. We went last time the tall ships were in the city and it was just amazing. I marvel every time I see one at the intricacy of them and the craftsmanship. They are so beautiful.

Monday, August 9, 2010

There are no words that can express just how much I love this video. Just watch it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

40 before 40- cushions for the sofa

So, I made some cushions for my sofa. To be fair, I had the fronts of the cushions done a long time ago, but they were sitting in my red chest for months, unfinished, waiting for me to get it together and sew them up. The white, aqua and yellow one was inspired by one I saw done by Emma Lamb, only I didn't have the same colors of yarn she used. I used leftovers from my stash. Oh, and I didn't save a picture of my inspiration, so I was working from my memory of the cushion. It's basically just a ginormous granny square. It was fast and fun to work up. The back I sewed using a thrifted velveteen big shirt in orange. I was able to save the button holes so that I can unbutton the cover, in case I ever want to wash it or replace the insert.

The multi colored one with the small grannies, I pretty much copied directly from Lucy, one of my favorite bloggers and crocheters, from her blog Attic 24. The back is just rounds of half-double crochet in leftover yarn from the front. The front did seem to take forever, but I think that's mainly because with so many colors, there were so many ends to bury. I wasn't able to think of a clever way to make this cushion removable, but each side was sewn separately, so if I ever need to get the insert out, it'll be an easy matter to just undo one side and sew it back up again. I thought about putting a zipper in, but that would have meant a trip to the fabric store. I'd had a certain momentum, working on these and I didn't want to lose that by taking a hour or two (or three- you never know with me and the fabric store) to go to the store.

Monday, July 19, 2010

40 before 40- the Starbucks Challenge

One of my forty goals is to kick the Starbucks habit. At four bucks a time, I've been known to spend thirty dollars a week just on my morning coffee. Not to mention the temptation of muffins or scones, which are both not vegan and very hard for me to resist.

What you see here may not look like much, but it's the key weapon in my struggle to stay out of the Starbucks. It's a Coffee Toddy, the easiest, most convenient way I've ever found to make cold brew coffee concentrate. It's lower in acid than most other ways to brew coffee, so it's also easier on my stomach. I didn't run out and buy this. It's one of those things I've had floating around the house for a while, not getting used much. I've committed to making my own coffee and so I dragged it out of the high cupboard where it used to live. It's really easy to use and surprisingly quick, with a little planning. I buy the coffee pre-ground, rather than having to grind it each morning. It takes about five minutes of effort to set it up to brew, then it sits over night. In the morning, pull the plug in the bottom and ten minutes later, its all drained into the carafe. Throw the used grounds out and then it goes into the dishwasher for cleanup. Yup. Brilliant.

The other thing you see is the best cup for iced coffee ever. Seriously awesome. BPA free. Double walled so it doesn't sweat. With the straw included.

What I do in the morning is pour a couple of ounces of the coffee concentrate into my tumbler, add a four or five ounces of chocolate almond milk, then top everything off with ice. It's not exactly an iced mocha, but it's almost better in my mind. It's got just enough happy inducing chocolate without being so numbingly sweet like the Starbuck's iced mochas. Also, it takes like one tenth the time it does to stop at the Starbucks, wait in line, order, have them make my drink, and pay up.

Best of all, it fits into water bottle cage of my bike and I'm off to work with no fuss.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

time for a new bike bag

I'm probably harder on panniers than the average cyclist. I use them every day, rain or shine. I jam them full of gym clothes, groceries, books from the library, finds from the thrift store. Basically anything and everything I want to haul. A bike is to be used and panniers or some kind of bag and a rack really contribute to their utility. So much so that I can't imagine having a bike without at least some kind of rack even if I intend to use it for nothing but sport riding.

Anyway, my current bag, which is a Detours Toocan in green, a slightly different shade of green than this, is getting really shabby looking. During my dooring adventure a few weeks back, it also acquired a hole in the side. Not a big one, but it's growing. I've had it for maybe three years and it's served me well. It's super convenient because the hard rubber bottom makes it stand up on the floor, table, etc and the mouth opens wide for filling it up with my various junk.

This time though I want something pretty. Something cheerful. Most bike panniers are unrelentingly utilitarian, coming in any color you want, so long as it's black. Or black and safety orange. Or alternatively, you can find something pretty but that only carries five pounds of stuff

I've done a little digging and I've come up with a few bags that nicely skirt the grounds between utilitarian and pretty. Bags for people like myself who want to carry more than a loaf of French bread and a bundle of flowers home from the farmers' market, but that still want that kind of romance and cheer in their life. I'm not sure what to get. Why don't you help me pick one out?

First we have the Detours Toocan Juicy Weave. Made by the same people who made my current bag, it's very much exactly like it, only made out of woven, recycled juice boxes. How cool is that?

Next we have the Axiom Town and Country Shopper in navy polka dots. I love navy polka dots! It looks sharp and sporty to me. Sporty in the old sense of "plays tennis and rides horses in the country" kind of sporty.

Basil Mirte Shopper in Rosa/Color mix is maybe my top contender at the moment. It's so bright and it looks like you found it at Cath Kidston only it attaches to your bicycle.

On the other hand, words can hardly convey just how brilliant the Basil Mirte Shopper in Blue/White will look with my light blue bike. And it's just like Delft ware. I love Delft ware.

So, what bag gets your vote?

Friday, July 16, 2010

40 before 40

Last month around my birthday, I wrote about making a list of things I wanted to do before my next birthday. I know this is hardly original, but bear with me, I think it will be valuable to me. One of my bigger faults is that I exist in a state of goalless fuzziness most days. I have things I want to do, to accomplish, but somehow, because I have no real, concrete plans or goals, not a lot gets accomplished most days.

It was harder than I thought, writing this list. Everything had to be concrete, with an actual, measurable result. I didn't want to put vague wishes on the list, like "do more X". The temptation was definitely there to make it all too self-helpish, or alternatively, to make it nothing but a "honey-do" list of things I want to do around the house. I wanted to have fun too. So, after a month of thinking about it (and to be truthful) procrastinating, here is my list of 40 things I want to do before I turn 40. I'll write posts here, detailing my accomplishments, the fun I might have, the improvements I've made.

1. visit Sharon in Milwaukee again

2. get up to the MCA

3. dye my hair- blonde?

4. Finish the quilt

5. Go on a biking camping trip

6. Break my Starbucks habit

7. Do a mini kitchen makeover so I can finally have the kitchen I want

8. Organize my dresser so everything fits, nothing is jammed in

9. See a Shakespeare play

10. Set up a dedicated sewing area in my flat

11. Make one dress a season, four total

12. Have at least one party

13. Finish the tattoo on my arm

14. Read at least one of the “classics I'm catching up with” a month

15. Organize and clean out the red chest

16. Take a painting class

17. Shoot 100 pictures a month

18. Buy my dream bike

19. Make cushions for my sofa

20. See one movie a month in the theater

21. Make a full deal fancy layer cake again

22. Go hiking with my sister

23. Go to bed at the same time as my spouse, pretty much every night

24. Go to the beach, at least once.

25. Make twenty more knitted hats for charity

26. Wallpaper the dining room

27. Wear every item in my closet at least once

28. Kayaking!

29. Have a professional portrait taken of myself and husband

30. Save 50% of what I earn

31. Organize my kitchen cabinets/pantry

32. Put at least 30 more of my books into circulation on “book crossing”

33. Go back to knit club (the first rule about knit club...)

34. Weekly pleasure rides, for as long as weather permits

35. Get involved with the new community garden here

36. Take a glass blowing class

37. Start and keep up a simple, short diary

38. Replace all the boring kitchen stuff with colorful stuff that will make me smile

39. Go to Ravinia for a concert and picnic

40. Go on a picnic, just because.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Seriously folks, if you're on a bike, wear your helmet. I had a little bike accident on Friday night. I was wearing my helmet and I was glad I was. I have no dramatic photos of bruises or skinned knees for you. Most of my aches and pains from the accident are internal (my neck is still out of wack. Chiropractor, here I come!). But I did hit my head and my helmet had a chance to do what they're supposed to.

See, that's the thing about accidents, you can't plan them. You can't decide that you'll always land in such a way that you won't hit your head. They happen so fast, without warning. So, really. Be safe. Wear it. It doesn't matter if it's too hot or if you're just going to be on the bike path. For what it's worth, the worst bike accident I've ever seen was on the bike path, between a cyclist and a pedestrian. Both were taken away in ambulances. Wear a helmet, because you never know when you'll need it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why did I never think of this before?

I've worked at the same place for nearly eight years and yet yesterday, I did something I'd never done before. I took my bike out for a ride during my break. I don't know why it never occurred to me in eight years that I could do this. I've been wanting to get more rides into my life. Admittedly, an hour isn't a very long time for a ride, but it's better than not riding at all.

In that precious hour, I got to go for lunch at a place I love but have always considered too far away to go during my break. I did an errand that has been pressing on my mind, but that it seemed like I didn't have time for. And I rode about two or three miles. Awesome. The weather has been fantastic lately, perhaps even a little too cold for my taste, but sunny and fresh, so riding was a pure pleasure. I didn't ride fast, so I arrived back at work just as rested as if I'd sat reading magazines (my usual break time pleasure), not sweaty in the slightest and ready to go back to work. What could have been better?

It makes me think, what other ways have I been unconsciously stuck in my routine, that I could change for the better, just by thinking differently?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just a few more pictures of London

A summer house built for a Queen, just so she would have somewhere to have picnics. Shades of Marie Antoinette, eh? This rustic folly being much larger than most average homes. The queen, though was Queen Charlotte, wife to King George the III, interesting because between bearing fifteen children, she still found time to support the arts and music, including the composers Handel and Mozart, as well as be an amateur botanist, working on Kew Gardens, where this summer house and the delightful little palace, Kew Palace stand.

There was this brick garden wall in the charming neighborhood we stayed in that had wisteria, in full bloom, climbing all over it. I love wisteria, but have never been able to grow it, as it's a little too tender for Chicago's northern climes.

The reflecting pond and garden in front of Kensington Palace. The ranks of flowers so brilliant and beautiful, the garden so serene. I wish I could walk in this park every day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some of my favorite pictures from London

Everything seemed to be in bloom when we arrived. Everything. Even the chestnut trees, which I'm not sure I've ever seen an actual chestnut tree in bloom before. They're very much like buckeye trees, which we do have in plenty around here, but it filled my heart with delight to see actual chestnut trees. Almost all of the chestnut trees in America died of the blight early in the last century. I guess there are some around, but they're hybrid Chinese and they're mostly all very young trees. Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park were both filled with massive, obviously ancient chestnut trees. So beautiful and magnificent.

We went to Covent Garden a couple of times this trip. My husband loves the buskers. There's tons of great shopping in the area too, including Cath Kidston. In the Covent Garden Market they have lots of lovely little stalls with handcrafted goods and vintage and antique wares. One could spend hours shopping in this neighborhood.

The bluebell woods in Kew Gardens are just enchanting. We spent the whole day wandering the grounds. When the bluebells are out, there's this haze of blue in every clearing it seems, under every tree, every where you look. Kew is such a magical place anytime, with trees from every corner of the globe and fantastic greenhouses, from so very Victorian palm houses to super modern desert houses.

This little staircase is in Hampton Court, the biggest of the three palaces I visited this time. Built by Cardinal Woolsey for his own residence and later claimed by Henry the VIII for his royal court, Hampton Court is simply sprawling. It's half Tudor, half Baroque, because William III tore part of the Tudor palace down, and rebuilt it, using Christopher Wren as his architect, intending for the palace to rival Versailles in size and magnificence. Thankfully, he ran out of money and never finished, so we have a remaining Tudor portion.

This picture is a little hallway off the part of the palace William III built and it leads up into the private residences. Even though no royalty have lived in the palace for three hundred years or so, it's still lived in. There are dozens of grace and favour apartments in this castle still. Can you imagine living in not just a palace, but in a palace owned by Henry the VIII? Also, I love the blue green of the woodwork, just the right tranquil shade of it.

This is the Chapel of the Old Royal Naval College, originally built as the Greenwich Hospital, a residence for injured and pensioned sailors of the Royal Navy. It's beautiful, isn't it? Just like a piece of Wedgwood china.

We spent a whole day at Greenwich, taking the Thames river taxi to get there. Which is about the most civilized public transportation option ever, by the way, with a decent coffee shop right on board! We saw baroque wonder after wonder, from a formal dining room with the most amazing painted ceiling to a small palace built for Queen Anne. But the chapel remains my favorite.

This carousel is on the south bank of Thames, near the London Eye and Jubilee Gardens. It just makes me happy to think about and too look at this picture of it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Just a quick post

I just turned 39 and I'm thinking about making up a 40 before 40 list of things I want to do before my next birthday. 40 wonderful, maybe wacky, definitely beautiful things I want to try that I haven't before. It's a lot to think up and about.

So, until then, I'll leave with a sneak peak of my London pictures. Bluebells, from the bluebell woods at Kew Gardens. God, I love Kew. It's simply one of the most beautiful (man made) places on the planet.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I love this

Via Apartment Therapy who got it from the flickr user Cottonblue. And I just love this room. I actually love all the pictures of her home, especially the pictures of her blue and white kitchen. Make sure to follow the link and check them out. It's all so soft and granny chic. I'm really loving the granny chic these days.

What's interesting to me though is the vociferous hatred so many of the posters of Apartment therapy had for this picture. They hated the fact that they didn't match mostly. And I have to say, yeah, they don't match, but to my eye, they go together. The soft colors complement each other and the lines of the bookcases even work together.

To me, this row of bookcases has more style and more soul than the row of matched Billy bookcases with glass doors that I have in my condo.

So, what do you think? Cluttered and mismatched? Or sweet, unique granny chic?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

five blogs I read every day

Beyond the obvious ones, that is. I mean, beyond the usual big name design blogs like Apartment Therapy, SF Girl by the Bay, Decor 8 and Posey Loves Cozy, which of course I read everyday, but so does most everyone else. These are blogs that I like to think of as my little secret.

Does This Pen Write?. Devoted to office supplies, a great, secret love of mine, and particularly, pens.

Bohemian Hellhole. No, it's not updated every day, sadly, but I check every day to see if there's something new. I've never run across a design blogger who's aesthetic quite matches mine so closely.

Dottie Angel. It took me a little while to get used to the center justified format and the whimsicle, meandering text, but I just love every picture from this blog. She's doing a giveaway right now of the most gorgeous crocheted pillow. I didn't enter, because I can make my own, but so inspirational.

Lovely Bicycle. I think we all need more lovely bikes in our lives. And I just adore the pictures of the blogger's Pashley Princess.

The Mogg Blogg. Like Go Fug Yourself, but for interior design. Always screaming funny. Sometimes just makes you scream.

five things I love right now

I love this Sweet Garland Venice Dream. I might hang it up with my string of cherry blossom lanterns. Or I might wrap presents with it. Or just spend hours looking at all the little maps on each dot.

I love this vintage princess phone. When I was a little girl, what I wanted more than anything to complete my strawberry and red and white gingham themed room was a white princess phone. My mom, quite rightly I suppose, didn't think a little girl of nine needed her own phone in her room. Now that I'm grown up, we don't have a land line and rely on our cell phones, but there's still a part of me that thinks it would be more glamorous, more elegant to place my calls on a princess phone.

This bicycle pendant would be just what I need to complete today's outfit. I love jewelry which lets the world know about my great love for my bike and lets me carry a little bit of the freedom and joy of biking with me when I'm stuck at work or in the store or wherever. This particular pendant is already sold, but etsy being the magical thing that it is, I'm sure the seller would be happy to make me, or you, a pendant very similar.

This garden party bunting is so cheerful. It's all things springy and cheerful and bright. I think I would hang this one in my bedroom, once I've finished my new vintage sheet patchwork quilt. This particular bunting is sold, but it would be so easy to make my own out of one of the sellers fat quarter bundles of reclaimed vintage fabrics. How cute would it look if you used lots of bright stripes with the florals?

We all need a little more Patience in our lives. I love Lisa Congdon and I love this painting. Perhaps it's my favorite of hers ever. It manages to make me smile as it inspires. How gorgeous are her color choices, right?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back from vacation

Hello Lovelies-

I had a brilliant time in London and took tons of photos. Over 500 in fact. I'm just dreading going through them to see if any are worthwhile. It was kind of freeing, having my digital camera and the huge chip and a fully charged battery, knowing I could take pretty much as many photos as I wanted. Still, going through them all. That'll be a task and a half. The computer has already spent ten minutes copying the files from my camera to my folder and it's not done yet. Maybe there's a more efficient way to get pictures from folder a to folder b, but I don't know it.

I'm sorry I didn't make a post about my planned trip. Mr. Campion has ideas about internet privacy and particularly didn't want random people on the web to know that our place would be empty for nearly two weeks. I guess he has a point.

In any case, soon there will be pictures of bluebell woods and palaces and a summer house folly that's bigger than most people's homes, but was built so a queen could have picnics in the woods.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Two new projects

Both blankets. Of course, I need more blankets around this place like I need more holes in the head, but I can't help it, the crochet has me (ha ha) hooked. But so far I've only crocheted one afghan for the living room, this will be the second and I don't think you get into that special kind of crazy category until you've done more than five per room, right?

The stack of fabric is a bundle of vintage sheet fat quarters that I bought from Etsy. I'm slowly cutting them into 4 inch charm squares and the plan is to sew them into a simple quilt. I'm a little worried, because the last quilt I made was about fifteen years ago and I'm not known for patience in sewing. And a full size quilt takes plenty of patience. More pictures as I get further on.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring is finally, fully here

Actually, this is a picture I took last summer, not of my place, but a house in my neighborhood that has a garden I particularly love. But it shows how green everything seems to have become suddenly, in what seems to be just the last few days. The trees have leafed out, the grass is no longer brown and the flowers, oh, the flowers. Tulips and daffs still out, lilacs just starting to bud out, the forsythia and kerria blazing yellow still. It's like everything has come at once this year. We had a handful of days that shot up to the eighties, but mostly it's been around a seasonal fifty or so degrees, just a bit of chill still, especially in the evenings. In short, perfect and glorious.

Another sure and certain sign that the year has changed though are the bike racks around town. While I'm not the only year round cyclist in my town, I'm one of a hardy few. I'll definitely see other bikes locked up or around town, but in January, there's never any problem getting a space at the bike rack. Yesterday, though, I went to a local coffee shop to meet a friend and every space was taken on the rack next door. Every space! I ended up having to lock up to a parking meter across the street. And lately, in front of my gym, most of the spots are often taken up with bikes. It makes me happy, it really does, to see people making use of their bikes.

When I first started riding everywhere for transportation, it was actually pretty lonely on the streets. I was often the only bike I would see on the street. Cars didn't give me much space or respect, I think because they weren't used to seeing a bike on the streets. That's changed in the ten years since I started shifting to bike transportation. Bikes are much more common now, though obviously much less common than cars, sadly.

My town is the perfect place to live car free, if you ask me, even year round, but especially in the good weather. It's small. Even the relatively physically unfit could ride from one end of town to the other easily. The streets are the human scale streets of an older town. No double lanes or highway like features. Plenty of stop signs and lights and other traffic calming features. We have most things that people need. No big box stores, obviously (though there is a Walmart I could cycle to, should I choose to do so. But. Ugh.), but we have grocery stores and coffee shops and clothing stores and office supply stores. We have a movie theater and bookstores and even a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop. We're on two El lines that go into the city, as well as the Metra and plenty of bus lines. I can't think of a better place to live car free. And terrain is relatively flat which makes biking easy.

In short, it's perfect for the car free, bike rich life and I think more people are beginning to recognize that. I still dream of the day where we have bike pollution almost, like you see in Amsterdam, where you can hardly find a spot to park your bike at all, because there are so many.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Now that the winter's over...

I thought I'd do a little bit about winter cycling. Basically, I'd have to say that it all comes down to this: it's not as hard as you think.

A good jacket helps a lot. I have this one. Add a fleece layer underneath and it's all I need for the coldest weather we get here in Chicago. A fleece hood is helpful too and maybe a pair of rain pants. I wear boots most of the winter anyway, so I don't wear special foot gear except for the very snowiest of weather.

What's more important than the gear is just deciding to do it.

There is a bit of an art when it comes to riding in the actual snow, but it comes with practice. I made it through this past winter and missed biking to work only twice because of the weather, which is to say when it was an ice storm. And there was one time I refused to go grocery shopping because it was so freaking cold, so we got the I Go car.

If you wanted to start winter cycling, you wouldn't have to be as hard core. You could decide to cycle on days when there is no snow on the roads, when it's not too cold. We have a surprising number of days in the winter here in Chicago where it's above freezing and there's no snow.

Why would someone want to do this? What is it that keeps me on the bike, year after year? Firstly, there's nothing quite so amazing as riding through an inch or two of powdery snow on streets that haven't been plowed, nor rutted up by cars, maybe with a few soft flakes still falling. There's the feeling of independence a bike gives, which for me, a car never did. But what I love most able winter cycling is the simplicity of it. I just get on the bike and go.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This made me smile today

What made you smile today?

Friday, April 2, 2010

playing with my new Diana lens

It came in the mail yesterday from photojojo, so of course I had to get it out and play with it a little. I've always been a little envious of the dreamy, almost but not quite overexposed, not quite out of focus pictures that a lot of bloggers take, I love the pictures ofSusannah Conway particularly. I struggle to get anything like that. My camera, when I have it in all auto mode, likes to take really clear, perfectly exposed photos that look more than a little flat to me. I thought the Diana lens would help with that a little. I'll say this though, its really easy to take a bad photo with the Diana lens, but I got a couple of really neat looking ones as well, almost the sort of thing I was hoping for.

It was almost kind of scary, taking off the lens the camera came with, even just remembering how to do it, thinking that I could be getting dust in there or whatever.

Sadly, my relationship with photography and cameras has been one of frustration over the years, mixed with more than a little fear. Fear that I'll do it wrong. Fear that I'll somehow manage to break the camera. Fear that I'll waste expensive film and (when I was taking a class) even more expensive photo paper. I took a photography class in college and that made things worse, much worse rather than better. I struggled with a poor quality camera and an instructor who lectured us on Ansel Adams but thought we should figure out such things as f stops and exposures ourselves, which was especially hard as I couldn't afford tons of photo paper to keep working out my mistakes. And not long after the class, my camera was stolen out of my dorm room, pretty much ending that phase of my photography.

I didn't take a lot of photos through my twenties and thirties. I had a point and shoot cheapie. I have some family pictures and vacations shots, but that's about all. I kind of yearned to take better pictures but not so strongly I did anything about it.

Then starting a few years ago, and mostly inspired by all the amazing blogs I read, I found myself really wanting to take pictures. Good pictures. Interesting pictures. Beautiful pictures. I saved my pennies and bought a DSLR. Of course, I wasn't suddenly magically taking the gorgeous photos I'd see on the blogs and my relationship with photography is still kind of fearful. Every picture is an assignment and I'm graded by the community of flickr- is my photo interesting enough to get any views or comment? I'm years behind in experience of where I would be if I'd kept taking pictures after my college course.

I'm trying to be less afraid of my camera. I bought a huge SD chip for my camera so I can take literally thousands of photos if I like. I'm trying to let the digital aspect of the camera change how I feel about photography in the same way that I let the computer change my writing- I don't have any hesitation in writing, they're just words. I change them, I rearrange them, I delete them without any second thoughts or regrets. I play around with things. Even write out whole blog posts and delete them before posting because they don't quite convey what I mean to.

The next step is probably a photography class, one more focused on the technical aspects, though I have to admit, my head starts getting a little swimmy when I try and think about things like f-stops and ISOs. Also, I need to keep taking pictures, to try and normalize this camera in my hands, so it is neither some technological marvel that seems smarter than I am about pictures nor is it a dense and impenetrable barrier to the kind of things I want to see. Just last month, I starting taking some pictures away from the "full auto" mode of the camera, trying out different ISOs and exposure times. That seemed huge to me.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A few of my favorite (yellow) things...

The color of the week on the blogosphere seems to be yellow, with so many the blogs I visit regularly doing on feature on it. Must be all the daffodils in bloom or something. It's a color that I love but tend not to have around a lot for some reason. It can be so problematic- too bright, too pale, too gold, almost never quite the right yellow. I thought I'd take a little shop around my favorite place to shop, etsy to see if I could find some things that are just exactly the right yellow. Maybe I'll add one or two of them to my life.

This lazy daisy skirt by Made With Love By Hannah would be the perfect thing to add to my spring wardrobe. I mean, rick rack? Who doesn't love rick rack? And with green, orange and light blue accent colors, it'll be super easy to find just the right blouse or t-shirt to wear with it. Because I don't know about y'all, but I just cannot wear yellow, especially near my face.

I've admired this Coney Island print for a long time. It's in my etsy basket as I type. I love the way the turquoise pops against the yellow. I think it'll look fantastic in my living room, maybe over my turquoise couch.

Was there a set of pyrex bowls in your house when you were growing up? My mom had almost exactly this same yellow pyrex bowl set. Sadly, most of them broke over the years, but I think my mom might still have the big one with the daisy print tucked away somewhere. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for daisies. My grandpa used to sing the song "Daisy Bell" to us. You know, 'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do'. It always makes me happy to sing that song, or just see daisies and think of him.

Lisa Congdon is one of my favorite artists on etsy and I love her Birch Forest No. 9. I love it for its simplicity and for how even over the computer screen it seems to glow with light.

I think I could get away with wearing these coral flowers around my neck, don't you? The coral softens the yellow. I could see myself wearing them with a simple white dress and a dark wash denim jacket. I'd do a polyvore set, but you can't import images from etsy to polyvore.

Always Remember, it's going to be okay. I love posters and prints with simple but not too soppy affirmations on them. Sometimes you just need a little reminder that, yes, really, it'll be okay. Or that you should just keep calm and carry on.

So pearly and lemon meringue and just plain gorgeous. If I were getting married again, I'd wear the simplest of gowns and just let this statement necklace to all the talking. I love how her work takes vintage bits and bobs and combines them into the frothiest of concoctions.

If I could, I'd hang a big wallpaper lampshade over a white marble top Saarinen table, and add in some vintage Thonet chairs. I've been fretting about my dining room lately, with it's Home Depot chandelier and Ikea curtains and wondering what I should do about it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

just a few things

Interestingly enough, I went to my usual small, local coffee shop, where I often go after work to do a little writing, and instead of the mid-afternoon quiet that I was expecting, nay, even counting on, I discovered that they were shooting a commercial. I'm not even sure what the commercial is for. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be for the coffee shop itself, which tends towards newspaper ads if they do any advertising at all. They have something along the lines of thirty people here, bustling around, some doing stuff, some just acting important. It's strange that it would take so many people and so much effort for such a short piece of film. The average commercial is what, fifteen seconds? They just put fake trees outside of the window. I guess the street scene isn't natural enough for the shoot or something. And in addition to the bright afternoon sunlight streaming into the windows, they've also added an unbelievably bright spotlight shining in from the outside. Every time I get even a glare from it, it's painful and leaves those retina spots.

I've been invited to participate in a photo mashup which excites me a lot. I'll put a link up to it when it goes up in April.

Also interestingly, just about a week after my rant about bikes and the quality of various ones thereof, my bike broke in a rather spectacular manner. Right in the middle of a busy intersection, while I was making a difficult left turn. I made it to safety and work only fifteen minutes late. But to quote my bike mechanic, "I've never seen one of those do that before."

It was my freewheel that broke. I have a single speed bike with a flip flop hub. Rather than run it as a fixie, I run on the side with the freewheel. For those not in the know, the freewheel is the little gadget inside a bike wheel that allows the wheel to spin without the chain (and therefore the pedals) moving. Mine snapped inside the cog, which in turn caused the whole gear to rip apart. It's not uncommon for the freewheel to break and I've had a broken freewheel on this bike before, but the bike mechanic had never seen one where it tore the whole gear apart like that before. The good news is I got it fixed for under $30. The bad news is also that it only took me thirty dollars to fix the bike.

See, it turns out that most freewheel and single gear combos are total junk. They're meant for little boys BMX bikes and if you use them for serious, year round riding, you can expect to go through them about every two to three years. I've been lucky and this is only the second time its broken in the eight years I've owned the bike. It bothers me that this part is considered to be almost disposable.

Luckily, there's one guy, out in California, who makes a freewheel single gear cog combination that won't break in a few years. It costs nearly $100. Shimano and other bike part makers charge about $15 for the same part. It wouldn't make sense to put the good part on a bike that you'd only keep for a while, but I plan on keeping my bike indefinitely. I'm going to pay for the good part. Quality parts for a good bike.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

fun with polyvore

I didn't realize until recently that you could use polyvore to mock up rooms. I had a bit of fun this afternoon putting this set together. It's about a million miles away from my real dining room and I'm not even sure I'd really like this for very long in real life. It was so much fun to play around though.

I will say this about polyvore though, it's hard to feel like one has really got the proportions of the room right with it. The images come up all kinds of different sizes and you kind of have to guess as to what's right. I'm pretty sure I got the Chinese sideboard way smaller than in is in real life and the target lamp lots bigger. The mirror though, that's probably dead on. It's huge in real life. I love it and would get it in a second if I had a space on any wall in my house big enough for a fifty inch diameter sunburst mirror.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

five things I want in my wardrobe right now.

This necklace. I have a weakness for things nautical, and especially tall ships. I think it has something to do with my deep and abiding love of theAubrey/Maturin novels. Nautical styles are in again this spring, like it seems they are every spring, but I like this pendant because it nods that way without making it look like you're about to get on a yacht.

Another custom tea dress by Sohomode. I have one in fall colors, sort of a brown with white, orange, yellow and black floral print. The fall one I have, I toughen up a bit by wearing it with a thick black belt with multiple buckles and knee high black boots. A spring and summer sohomode, I'd wear with the belt it came with and coordinating espadrilles.

I'm not sure I even know where this dress is from. It's been in my clip file for a couple of years now and I still love it. It's part demure, part serious, all girl, with a little influence of Japanese Lolita fashion, without so much of it that a grown woman couldn't wear the dress.

See, there's a part of me that is super sad that Japanese influence fashion and the EGL stuff was nowhere on the horizon so many years ago when I was seventeen and could get away with such stuff.

The perfect crinoline from Porschesplace. I've got a number of vintage and vintage style dresses that just need this. This color would be fantastic peeking out from under the hem of a navy blue dress, don't you think?

The Iris boot by Green Shoes. Can't you picture them in red "vegan leather"? No? Okay, how about something still versatile and practical, but with a bit of panache, like the navy "vegan leather".

Monday, March 22, 2010

just a peek

of the new afghan I'm working on. Nearly done. More pictures soon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I'm just in love with this video

I guess it's by the same people that do that ubiquitous ad, but I don't care. I love the paper cuts and the sort of Alice in Wonderland feel to the story and well, everything about it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A little rant about Liberty of London at Target, but mostly about bikes

I'm sure you, like everyone else in the blogosphere, has heard and read about the Liberty of London stuff at Target. I had been pretty excited myself, because I've loved Liberty for years, since I found out about it in high school *mumblety,mumbelty* years ago, when there used to be a Liberty of London store in one of the fancy malls up on the Mag Mile in Chicago. At that time, what I really coveted from them was this denim jacket lined in Liberty fabric. I'd still love one of those actually. I'd wear it with the sleeves rolled over a plain white dress during the summer.

And the stuff from Target looked so promising. The gorgeous colors. The wild prints. Oh, my heart sang at the prospects of it all. I'm sure you felt the same way. I know you did. Most of us were out there, first thing Sunday morning, to buy. I got there at about 11 and everything was pretty picked over already.

But honestly, the quality of many things was somewhat disappointing. A lot of the women's dresses were that cheesy polyester chiffon. Most of the dishes were melamine. I guess I won't rant too much about that. I figured that the quality of the fabric and other wares wouldn't be quite up to the full priced Liberty for obvious reasons. Still, I was bit disappointed that most of the sundresses were polyester. As an avid dress wearer, especially in the summer, I was hoping for cotton, because in the summer heat, that polyester chiffon can feel very hot and sticky next to the skin.

Actually, what I want to rant most about is the Liberty of London bike. I've come across more than a few gushing reviews of this, including someone who called it the most beautiful bike they'd ever seen. Really?

I've to come to the conclusion that the person who said that hasn't looked at very many bikes. As someone who loves bikes, who rides bikes pretty much every day, who's owned more than few bikes in my day, the bike itself looks, well, ugly. It's got a very nice paint job. That's all it has going for it. Look at the form of the bike itself. It's ungainly and ungraceful. The tubing that forms the frame is chunky. From the pictures I've seen, the welds look no better than what you'd find on any discount store bike, which is to say, downright awful. The bike just plain doesn't have good lines to it. And that, to me, is more important that a good paint job.

Because if you're actually going to use a bike, that paint job won't last. Or at least it won't last in mint condition. When you ride a bike, things happen to it, especially to the paint. Little rocks fly up from your tires and chip the paint. You accidentally ride over a fresh patch in the road and bits of asphalt or tar fly up and spatter the frame. You lock the bike up and you hit the frame with the lock. Or it accidentally bumps against some thing or another.

A few years back, I had my beloved Country Road Bob stripped down and sent off to be powdercoated. As you can see in the link, I chose a robin's egg blue that is about as lovely as you'll see, with an opalescent finish. Three, four years down the road, and it's chipped and otherwise marred. But I don't care, because you know, I still walk up to where it's locked up and I think to myself, that is one fine looking bike. It's got lovely lines. The tubes curve gracefully. The geometry speaks to me. It looks both sturdy and sporty to me. And every time I see it, I am happy that I own it, no matter that the paint job is looking, well, like you'd expect on the bike that sees city roads every day, no matter the weather.

On the other hand, I don't think it's the most beautiful bike I've ever seen. This bike, to the right is about the most beautiful bike I or you or any random blogger will likely ever see on the street. This bike is the A. Homer Hilsen by Rivendell Bikes. Someone in my building has one. One morning, it was still there in the bike room when I was leaving for work and it was like looking at something that belongs in a museum. Insteady of the catepillars left by cheap welds, it uses gorgeous lug work that is picked out in contrasting colors. Its tubes don't curve, true, but its geometry just sings. The font they use for the name on the tube is artful and the headbadge is a work of art. Do yourself a favor and click through the link to the full listing for the bike. Take in the lugwork and head badge. Then get back to me on how the Liberty bike is the most beautiful bike you've ever seen. Sure, the A Homer Hilsen doesn't have Liberty flowers, but it's got style, serious style and that's better.

Of course, none of this even touches the most important part of any bike- how it rides. The A. Homer Hilsen will ride like a dream, I can guarantee it. It'll be light, fast and comfortable. You'll go for miles without seeming to put any effort into it. Even my Country Road Bob, when it's tuned and the tires are pumped, is a great ride. It's fast and yet I'm still nearly fully upright when sitting in the saddle. The swept back handlebars mean my position is nearly as fully upright as it would be on a cruiser style bike, but the thinner tires and better geometry, plus more efficient gear ratio mean I go faster with a lot less effort.

A lot of people go on and on about how comfortable a cruiser style bike is, and I won't argue that the upright posture and broad seat lend themselves to a certain comfort, especially to someone whose last experience with a bike was a mountain bike where the handlebars are often actually lower than the saddle, which is hard and narrow, so their wrists ached, their seats ached and they went slow and cumbersomely on a bike never meant for city streets.

I fell for a cruiser a few years back and I have to say, never, ever again, especially not a discount store cruiser (like the Liberty bike). They are slow. They're heavy. The wide seat chafes the thighs after more than a couple of miles. The gear ratio is set up for someone without a lot of leg strength to be able to push this heavy thing around without much effort, so it's not very good for going fast. The balloon tires are squishy, which feels good at first, but they make for a lot of rolling resistance, which means it's a lot harder to push them around. They say that an ounce of weight on the rims is equivalent to a pound of weight on the frame, and most cruisers are pretty heavy as is. Like forty pounds of frame. My bike, the Country Road Bob, is around twenty-five pounds of frame, which isn't really light compared to many bikes, but is like a cloud of candyfloss compared to a cruiser. A good, well-designed bike is just easier to ride. You go faster with less effort.

Oh, but Rose, I hear you say. That A. Homer Hilsen is $2000 just for the frame alone! Sadly true. It's my aspirational bike, the one I'll buy someday, maybe when I win the lottery. Actually, if I win the lottery, I'd probably get a custom frameset. But anyway, I heard that, for those who could get them, the Liberty bike was $500 by the time you counted in the extra shipping. And $500 buys you a lot of good, functional and even beautiful bike. My first choice for that kind of money, for someone who likes the looks and comfort of a cruiser would probably be the Electra Amsterdam Original 3. Schwinn also seems to be making a comeback from its days of being a horrible discount store choice. I like the looks of the Jenny. She looks so much like the Schwinn I rode when I was growing up. Or how about a Flying Pigeon, that bike icon from China?

Or spend just over twice as much and your options go through the roof. You could get an awesome cargo bike. Or better yet, a Pashley Princess, which truly is a beautiful bike in all the ways I can think of, as well as being hand built in England since the twenties, a design credential almost equal of Liberty, yes?

Any of the bikes I've mentioned is, to my eye at least, a much better looking bike than the Target Liberty of London bike, but more importantly, they'll ride better and more easily, last longer (do not even get me started on the non-repairability of discount store bikes), and just be an all round better bike than anything from Target. No matter how many flowers it has on it.