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.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Halycon Days

Ah, it was so lovely today. Over forty degrees and with actual blue skies and sunshine. I spent most of the day cleaning house. There's something about the bright light pouring in through the windows that highlights all the spiderwebs in the corners and the smudges on the switchplates. It's amazing how much better I feel about my house when I've spent some time with the old spit and polish. I suppose that's one of the first things to learn if you want to have a lovely house- clean it.

Normally I love rooms with color, but today I'm loving and feeling happiest about simplicity and big windows that let in lots of light. Maybe with lots of plants and gardens around.

Both pictures were taken Gene Stratton-Porter's Cabin in the Wildflower Woods, near Rome City, IN. The room is her solarium/greenhouse. It makes me want to repot plants and maybe start some seeds on the windowsill. Then curl up in her rocking chair with some crochet and while away the rest of the sunny afternoon.

I visited the Gene Stratton-Porter Historic Site i.e. the Cabin in the Wildflower Woods late last spring. Firstly, doesn't it sound blissful to you to live in a cabin in a wildflower woods? But almost more importantly, I wanted to see her cabin in the woods because of how I admire her, not just as one of the most famous authors of the early 20th century (her books sold millions of copies in the 1920s), but as a pioneering naturalist and ecologist. She fought against the draining of wetlands, like the Limberlost Swamp and took important documentary photographs of rare butterflies and birds in those wetlands. And her books, well, there's no cozier or comforting writer to read. I know that it's a fallacy to say that the past was a simpler, easier time, but her books really read like they're from simpler, happier times. Reading them now makes me feel like reading the Little House books did when I was a little girl- like everything is, or could be, right with the world.

Wishing you halcyon afternoons and spring flowers,


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

dreaming of spring and handmade challenges

Yes, I know. Aren't we all? It's just that this winter has seemed to drag on for an unconscionably long time. Here it is, the second day of March and I've yet to sight so much as the little green tips of snowbells, which are often seen around here in February, much less something truly cheerful like a crocus. These flowers pictured, sadly, are no more. I took the picture last month, the month before maybe. I think I need to get some more potted bulbs, I think. I don't often get cut flowers or even potted plants because of the environmental impact of the flower trade. They use more of the really dangerous pesticides than any other kind of crops. Sad but true.

Also sad is the fact that the second picture was taken only a few days ago, and it's still more or less what it looks like out of my window.

Not so much snow on the roofs and the snow in generally is a bit more... gray.

As a bit of a sad note, my beloved Creative Zen Vision M, which I've had for about three years now appears to slowly dying on me. I'm getting a really worrying white screen half the time when I turn it on. So I bought myself a Sansa Clip plus to hold me over until I can send my CZV to this guy I found in California who can fix it. Yes, this is unheard of. I am getting a small electronic device repaired instead of just (completely) replacing it. The clip plus is about the size of a small matchbook. It'll be great for the gym, I think. But I love my CZV. It has a good solid feel that no other player has, and huge storage capacity. 80G. No kidding. It's not even half full despite my huge music collection, the back-ups of my picture files and a bunch of video.

Why didn't I just "upgrade" to an iPod or iPhone? Part of it is sheer stubborness on my part. Another part is the 'cool' factor of the ipod. Anything too cool or popular, I generally don't want anything to do with, especially the smug coolness of Apple. All I know is, I'll probably always have anything but an iPod.

Actually, all this tech stuff is why I haven't full committed myself yet to
Dottie Angel's Utmost Challenge to buy only thrifted and handmade goods for a year. I really want to do it, but you can't buy hand crafted tech, sadly. I did compromise with my MP3 player, but sending it to get fixed rather than buying a schmancy new player with android and a touchscreen and all the bells and whistles. I thought about it and decided that I wanted to stick with my old friend the Zen.

And yet, I find myself thinking I will have to get a computer replacement in the next couple of months. Yes, all of us are incredibly lucky to have a computer at all and I will keep this one going for as long as I can. But truth be told, I'm working on a computer that my husband didn't find good enough to continue using. Not all of the USB ports work. It doesn't really have enough memory to run Vista properly. It chugs and spurts along and every time I use it, I'm afraid the next time will be time it doesn't boot at all.

So, just out of curiousity, how do you all balance your need to respect the environment (i.e. not buy new stuff willy-nilly every time you want it) versus wanting happy, fancy new toys versus just plain having stuff that works the way its supposed to?

Could I, in good conscience, say I'm doing the challenge but state ahead of time that I will be buying X, Y and Z new in the next year? There are some things you just can't buy used or hand-crafted. Like sometime soon, I will need a new bicycle helmet, because the one I have is looking rather battered, and you know, better safe than sorry. You can't buy a helmet used. I'm sorry. You just can't. It's not even that it's gross (it is), it's just plain not safe.

Which is all to say that, yes, I'm still thinking about taking up Dottie Angel's challenge, but that it's just a little more complicated than just doing it.