Thursday, August 31, 2006

small packages

When you’re six feet tall with a boyish figure, finding clothing long enough that gives the illusion of curves is a rare occurrence. I’ve learned the hard way to not let them get away when they cross my path. And that is how I found myself forking over full price at Anthropologie for a wool knit jacket with fabulous detailing even though I live in Florida where it is currently 95 degrees with 95 % humidity and will likely continue as such for a couple of months. I know if I wait for future markdowns or cooler weather my size will have long since been scooped up by someone else and I will sorely regret it. So, there you go.

Now I was already pretty happy with my purchase, but when I got home and started removing tags I fell in love. Tucked away under the armpit, where it had escaped my previous notice, was a tiny and exquisitely executed “dressmaker kit” attached to the sweater with a satin ribbon. Sliding open the wee box revealed one shiny button and neatly wrapped yarn atop a lining of miniature sheet music. That’s when I knew this was meant to be.

I should explain. I’ve held a fascination for containers for as long as I can remember – boxes, baskets, tins, purses, portfolios, you name it – if it’s beautiful and can be used for containing and organizing all the stuff in my life, it is to be appreciated and admired. I’m not positive how I arrived at this compulsion, but I suspect I inherited it in part from my father whose worktable is precisely organized with labeled bins and from my mother whose eye for color and design influences me to this day.

So, while I’m sure the sweater will take me through a few winters in style, ultimately, this little throw-away box will find a special place in my house for the long term as all good and useful things do.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

foodie heaven

Apricot-Almond Coffee Cake
Originally uploaded by creampuffsinvenice.

I so wish I liked to cook as much as I like to eat. But then again, maybe that's a good thing because if I did I would probably double my size in short order trying out all the recipes over at Cream Puffs in Venice.

Not only does Ivonne artfully walk you through each recipe, but she also takes mouth watering photos of the end result. She's the latest addition to my blogline feeds. I'm hoping she'll inspire me to do more than my usual arrabbiata and pasta e fagioli (a girl does need variety after all).

[Photo credit: Cream Puffs in Venice]

Monday, August 28, 2006


Too many distractions have left me unable to think of anything to say. Namely:
  • Ernesto

  • a trip to the endodontist tomorrow to reevaluate two root canals

  • a trip to my regular dentist next week to be fitted with a replacement crown for the permanent one that fell out a couple of months ago

  • a phone call to the oral surgeon to schedule two wisdom teeth extractions

  • a huge list of things to finish for school projects

The only fun on the near horizon is a trip to Tribeca Salon on Wednesday for a cut and color. I might just have to do something radical to get me out of my funk.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The awesomeness of small

a found poem

In a world of
Unyielding Giganticism,

The power of small is Enormous.

Discovered in "a dizzying look at the awesomeness of small", a top secret publication exclusively for Mini owners, by Dr. C. M. Terivoni, Esquire including the decryption process, decoding basic parameters and maintaining clarity of vision on the phenomenon of small.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

cooking with love

My husband has a philosophy that cooking with love makes the meal; without it the result is mediocre at best, inedible at worst. Here's his advice for foolproof risotto:

A proper risotto should not be runny; you must nurse the precious starch from the unwashed grain through a combination of flavored liquid, gentle heat, and love. If it is too runny, you have not added enough heat or love. Of course, if you are adding cheese, that will reduce much of the apparent liquid and thicken it up. In this case you can reduce the amount of love by 1 Tbs for each palm-full of cheese.

End result, slightly sticky, not much liquid. You can always sprinkle more love over the top when done. Garnish with affection.

All I can say is I'm not complaining :)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

letting go

Years ago I took some classes in Life Drawing at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. It was quite an eye opener. Life drawing challenged all my self-taught need-to-be-in-control habits. In my youth, I spent many hours sprawled on the floor with a sketchbook, slowly and meticulously constructing drawings with a keen eye for detail and precision. In life drawing, we worked at a much larger scale standing at an easel, using the whole of our bodies, to crank out drawings with messy charcoal on newsprint in 5 minutes or less.

It was tough letting go of my need to over-analyze and just let the drawing come out naturally. Tough, but exhilarating. The short timed sketches got my heart pumping – performance anxiety I suspect – still craving that perfection at my core. I learned to quickly settle into the moment, becoming so absorbed in my work that the three hour class would be over, long before I was ready to go.

One of my favorite drawings was one of my least complete. It was a one minute study and I managed to sketch in only the head, back and part of an arm. But still, I felt it captured the moment, the tilt of the model’s head, her relaxed posture. It wasn’t perfect but it spoke to me then and still does today - let go, let it happen, let it be.

latest addition

So, I stopped by Nordstrom yesterday to check out the ballet flats (no luck) and figured while I was there I’d see what was happening in the clearance bin over in handbags.

A quick dig through the leftovers yielded nothing of interest but then I spied the fall collection of bags by Orla Kiely on a nearby rack. Did I mention that I’ve been salivating over her fun print totes and purses since I first saw them last summer?

Well yesterday I finally found my perfect color / pattern / style combo! Love, love the grey, blue and khaki – subtle and so versatile – and the pattern is not overwhelming.

Other things that drew me to this bag in particular:

  • rubber feet
  • holds its shape
  • can be wiped clean (basically impervious to daily rain and grime)
  • adjustable strap (over the shoulder to cross body)
  • room for all my usual stuff plus a notebook / sketchpad
  • not too big / not too small, and
  • last but not least, fabulous organization!

Yeah, I realize I have a *slight* obsession, but given my current lack of time for extracurricular activities of any kind, blowing my monthly fun money on handbags feels good and is pretty low on the list of possible vices. Besides, eventually my closet will run out of space and that means my friends and family get first dibs on the bags that don’t make the cut. I like to think of it as a win-win situation.

Monday, August 21, 2006

made to order

a found poem

Wigmaker to the stars
now designing for
little people in fur coats.

old-fashioned glamour,
a cascade of curls,
good choice for hairless dogs

"Peek a Bow Wow"
movie star style for,
you know,
a sexy dog.

Hairpieces for doggies?

I don't see why it would be

Found in an article about an eighth generation wigmaker to the stars, originally published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Thanks to suttonhoo for clueing me in to the world of found poetry.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

coffee break: Virginia home cookin'

For me, a visit back home to Virginia is not complete without a stop at Whitley’s Peanuts. They’ve been in business for 20 years and my family has been devouring their “home cooked” Virginia peanuts for just about as long.

I LOVE the butter toffee and chocolate covered peanuts but I’m addicted to the super extra large salted variety which have a perfect amount of fresh and savory crispiness. Once you’ve had Whitley’s, all other nuts will pale in comparison. Seriously. Check ‘em out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

travel journaling

Travel Journaling
Originally uploaded by Opiliones.

My last attempt at travel journaling was a miserable failure. I blame it on the whirlwind schedule – 2 weeks: London / Paris / Milan – and the cold, rainy March weather. It’s hard to stay motivated and on task with frozen fingers and an umbrella clamped between your teeth.

I’m always on the lookout for motifs to include in textile designs and I did manage to sketch a few in London at St. Paul’s and the British Museum at the beginning of the trip while I was still fresh. But, by the time I got to Paris, I had abandoned both my camera and my sketchbook in favor of shopping and eating, scribbling down only a couple of quick notes:
- fabric shops near Sacre Couer (Anvers Metro)
- Gérard Mulot - CAKES, St. Germain

That was my last entry. The cakes at Gérard Mulot had finished me. I had abstained from sugar and chocolate for years but one bite of fruit filled chocolate delight and I was addicted (still am over a year later). I went back and got a box of four to take with me to Milan but devoured them all before we made it to the Italian border.

Before my next big trip I’m going to undergo an aggressive workout regime: -weightlifting to prepare for lugging around my gear; and sketching in random spots around town in various weather conditions holding said gear to prepare for, well, sketching in random spots around the country in various weather conditions holding my gear ;)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

drawing from life

Feeling exhausted and under the weather today so I called in sick and spent my day on the couch alternately napping, reading and sipping emergen-c. The good thing is I finally had time to make my way through Drawing from Life: The Journal as Art by Jennifer New which gives a behind the scenes look at the visual journals of a broad range of contributors.

I love this book. It looks and feels like a journal; the cover is firm yet flexible with a waxy veneer and the hefty grid-lined papers have the look of a scientific notebook. The contents have been organized logically according to the journals’ perceived function: observation, reflection, exploration, and creation. Every section shares some background about each journalist and then shows examples from their books. This glimpse into the processes behind journaling is what makes this book notable and inspiring enough to compel me to drag out one of my many sketchbooks and start making journaling a daily practice. Starting tomorrow when I can muster the energy to look for them ;)

Monday, August 14, 2006

museum day

Only Giraffe
Originally uploaded by Opiliones.
My friend Susan gave me a heads up that the Smithsonian is sponsoring Museum Day on Saturday, Sept. 30. You and a guest can visit a participating museum for free at locations throughout the U.S.

Check out their website for more information on which museums in your state are participating and to print out your Museum Day Pass.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota Florida is one of those taking part in Museum Day. If you go, be sure to check out the Circus Museum and Cà d'Zan Mansion.

Friday, August 11, 2006

speaking of color

In which our fearless heroine learns the true meaning of metamerism - of the illuminant variety…

There I was during a group critique, reviewing a design drawing I had spent HOURS carefully rendering when it was politely pointed out that the green in my drawing did not match the green in my laminate sample. At all. The same greens that had matched perfectly at home under my OTT-lite had decided to go their separate ways under the banks of fluorescent lighting above my head. Oh the humanity!

It’s back to the drawing board (literally) for me this weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

color challenge

I sit in semi-darkness, trapped in a translucent plastic container. The first few days of my youth, I was but a mere wisp of mossy fluff. Now, as age settles in I have turned dark and foreboding, spreading like a malevolent plague over the landscape of your leftover macaroni and cheese.

I’ve never been what you’d call “popular.” I’m unobtrusive in a primeval, earthy way, unlike the attention-seeking Granny Smith with her tawdry hue that screams “PICK ME! PICK ME!” Nor can I compete with the grassy herbs of summer and their fresh appeal. From my cell, I hear your exclamations over tropical lime beauties and delicate lettuce ruffles and it pains me. I know your praises will not be extended to me.

I live with the certainty of my fate – the day when my hiding place, wedged into the shadowy recesses of the refrigerator, will be discovered. A quick glimpse of your horrified grimace will be all I see before my sanctuary is sealed shut and tossed hurriedly back on the wire shelf to be forgotten and rediscovered on another day.

Rejected, once again.

An old exercise from Writeriffic: Creativity Training for Writers in which we were to write about a color, 200 words or less. It was a fun class – worth checking into if you’re interested in trying something new.

I'd love to see what suttonhoo and litwit would do with this challenge ;)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

soul food

All this talk of books reminded me that I need to go back and thoroughly explore the Soul Food Café, a portal for writers and artists. Heather Blakey, “purveyor of creative stimuli and cognitive archaeologist”, is the mastermind behind the interconnected sites that make up the Café. Her vision was to create a nurturing environment to promote the therapeutic value of daily writing.

Along with the tips, techniques, references and encouragement found on the site(s), there is a complex imaginary writing world called Lemuria (complete with GPS guidance) which may take some time to figure out. In the mean time, you can flex your writing muscles with creativity exercises and projects at the café.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

tag, you're it

In response to suttonhoo:

A book that changed your life:
Well, I don’t know if I could say it changed my life, but Karen Kingston’s Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui certainly changed the way I look at my stuff. I inherited pack-rat tendencies from my father and this book helped me let go of a lot of things I had been keeping “just in case”.

A book you’ve read more than once:
When I was in elementary school, we had a book fair every year. As I remember it, you would preorder from a catalog and then go to the library to pick up your books. I always had a huge stack.

One of my selections from the 4th grade was the 1962 Campus Classic edition of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It was 1973 - obviously the publisher had overestimated the book’s popularity with students.

I, however, was intrigued by the description – “A dark deception stands between the shy, plain governess and her handsome, moody employer…What is the strange, crazed laughter she hears in the night? What forbidden secret is Mr. Rochester concealing from her – and the world?” I was big into mysteries at that time – Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Agatha Christie – so this sounded right up my alley.

When the books came I couldn’t wait to get home. Finally sequestered in my room, I plopped down into my bean bag chair (it was the 70s people) and began reading Jane Eyre. I was hooked. The mystery drew me in but the romance and Jane’s triumph brought me back again and again.

The spine has been permanently cracked at page 278 where I thrilled to Mr. Rochester’s proclamations of love:
You-you strange–you almost unearthly thing!—I love as my own flesh. You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are—I entreat to accept me as a husband.

That passage was underlined with a blue ballpoint pen – I managed to use it later in a high school term paper.

A book that made you laugh:
I think I actually snorted in public while reading this story from Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures: Funny Women Write from the Road.

A book that made you cry:
Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, the diaries and letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh from 1929-1932 takes you from the excitement and flying adventures during the early years of her marriage to Charles Lindbergh through the tragic kidnapping of their first child.
Sunday, September 25, 1932
The wind howls at night. I think of last winter. I will never accept it—cannot accept it or get used to it or get past it. It is not like a death—not like Daddy—which I knew would happen sometime. It is not a “normal” sorrow. Back of it is always “It need not have happened,” and that is a torture. I suppose I can only swallow it whole. It will not be absorbed but always be there, and always hurting, like something in your eyes. Nature does not absorb it but gradually provides a protective covering which numbs the sharp pain, but you are always conscious of it.

Gets me every time.

A book that you wish had been written and a book you wish had never been written:
I’m drawing a blank on this one so I’ll just move on.

Books you’re currently reading:
Still working my way through the pile on my nightstand.

A book you’ve been meaning to read:
My husband has a copy of A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal on his bookshelf. I love food and I love travel and think Anthony Bourdain is a hoot but am not sure my stomach can handle some of the more *descriptive* passages re. food preparation. I’m trying to work up my courage to read it.

In the spirit of passing it on, brigita, tag, you're it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

mental calculations

a + 3b + 4c = d + e


a = migraine
b = caffeine-laden products
c = slices of pepperoni pizza
d = insomnia
e = indigestion

adventure girl

I you have even the tiniest bit of wanderlust flowing through your veins, you should check out the website of Nancy Pellegrini. Nancy is a writer and photographer originally from New York, but currently living in China teaching English language classes. Prior to China, she taught English in Korea, studied and worked in England and Ireland, and traveled around Europe. We *met* and bonded through an online travel writing class a few years ago and keep in touch sporadically via her unreliable internet connection from Beijing. One of these days I need to hop a plane to China for a face to face chat.

A description of the overwhelming darkness and misery of learning Chinese in general, her Chinese class in particular, and the all-consuming horror of a using a Chinese dictionary was selected from her essay "A Monolinguist Abroad" (InsideOut Travel, Jan 2005), and published as a one-hundred word sidebar in the 2004 Traveler's Tales China: Anthology.

full disclosure: I totally lifted that last paragraph from Nancy’s website ; )

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Morning Reflections
Originally uploaded by Opiliones.

I've spent most of my life living in coastal towns - in the Pacific Northwest, Hampton Roads VA, and Naples Italy to name a few. The smell and the sound and the sight of the water is so ingrained in my psyche that I have a hard time imagining living happily without some bit of it nearby to wash away my worries.

This goes out to suttonhoo who's headed to my home state in a couple of days to say goodbye to a dear friend. Safe

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

favorite place

di ceramica
Originally uploaded by true nature.

My husband and I spent a few unforgettable years living in Italy and are often asked by friends for recommendations for places to go. At the top of my list is the small medieval town of San Gimignano. When we last visited, there were few tourists so we were able to spend a quiet afternoon roaming the city.

For a great description of what it's like to wander those streets, head over to Jenny Vorwaller's blog, True Nature, and read her posts from her month long painting sabbatical in Italy with her mother.

I hesitate to bring this up but on the off-chance that you go and happen to run across a sign for the Medieval Torture Museum and decide to check it out, do so on an empty stomach and steel yourself. I'm usually pretty unflappable, but this one got to me.