Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In search of inspiration or is it really procrastination?

My recent search for inspiration is really thinly veiled procrastination.  It is not an easy job to fit 1800 square feet of stuff into about 1200 square feet and as much as I am trying to rise to the challenge, it is sometimes kicking my butt.  Its not a tough decision to choose whether to attempt to squeeze four more 3-cubic foot boxes of kitchen goods into an already full kitchen, or to hop on the internet and find dreamy photos of beachside cottage homes or brightly colored fun crafting studios.  Off to the internet I go!

One great place to find color combination ideas and inspiration is Coastal Living, such as the shot above.  They provide beautiful photo galleries full of ideas for kitchens, living rooms, outdoor rooms, small spaces and just about any room you'd be looking to redecorate.  They have one collection of coastal styles that is organized by color scheme - you can choose blue and white, seaglass, citrus, whites only, pastel etc.  The above photo is from the seaglass collection.  As much as I have not wanted blue to be a part of my decorating scheme, I have to admit I'm drawn to the concept of seaglass colors.  Somehow a washed out cobalt or teal is not blue in my head.  Weird, I know!

I'm also finding loads of color inspiration from some of my favorite fabric-related websites.  Along with most of the world, I'm crazy about Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner and Heather Bailey.  The Amy Butler site has a series of inspiration pages where they show the fabrics in real settings.  There is also a page showing her studio, which is not as bright as I would have expected.  Perhaps a neutral palette allows for more creativity?

Anna Maria Horner's blog includes some great project ideas and she seems so nice and personable.  When you walk into a fabric shop, you don't necessarily think "Hmm, some person just like me who likes to quilt and sew came up with this great design."  You just think "Oh I HAVE to have that."  Don't you?  She has some free projects on her blog that I'd love to try once I get the studio all set up and can actually use my sewing machine.  I think the dog leash pattern will be first!  She also links to Flickr groups where her fabrics are turned into wonderful things by crafters everywhere.  Lots of fun to check those out!  This is the promo for her new fabric line to be released this fall.

And then there's Heather Bailey.  She's a girl after my own heart - just look at the hot pink peonies!

Her blog is fun to read too and she links to photos of projects created with her fabrics.  She and Anna Maria Horner are both designers for Free Spirit Fabrics, and you can find their full collections here.  Wish they had a gallery like Amy Butler, but you can find FO's out there on Flickr and other blogs.

There's my procrastination for the day.  Off to unpack some studio boxes and get the cabinets in there re-organized.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nervous Knitting is Productive Knitting

My sweet 6 year old niece had surgery on her foot on Thursday and I took the day off from work to provide moral support for everybody.  Two grownups managing a two-child family is great, but three grownups is even better.  Between the three of us, the princess always had 2 adults watching over her and my nephew always had someone with him too during his normal daily activities.  I am working on a pattern to be published later this year, and taking this project along helped get me through all the waiting.

Would you believe I knitted an entire skein of Lamb's Pride Bulky between about 10 am and 4 pm?  I haven't been able to spend such a large block on time on knitting in ages and it was definitely soothing to the nerves.  Our little princess came out of surgery fairly well, although we forgot that the anesthesia makes her naseous.  All Children's Hospital in St. Pete is in a new building and the rooms are practically suites, they are so big.  There's a pull out couch & a pull out chair for overnight guests (aka Momma & Aunt Ellen), another guest chair, 2 tv's and a mini fridge, in addition to all the usual things you'd find in a hospital room.  All their rooms are private rooms, which is a huge blessing and the nurses and staff were all amazing.  I've spent many days and nights in various hospitals on the East Coast (always as a visitor, never a patient) and I have to say they are top notch here.  The patient gets a 42 inch flat screen tv (which of course now she wants in her bedroom!) and they've got tons of movies to watch, an activities cart that comes around everyday with games and crafty things.  If you have to have a child in a hospital, this seems a good choice.

Anywhoo, the Lamb's Pride Bulky is great to work with, although there were some limey green fuzzies on my black tee but I presume that's from the mohair. No big deal though.  I used a neat trick I just learned where you knit a bit, then roll it and add one stitch from the cast on edge to each stitch - creates a very cool hem.  And do you like how I match the couch in the Princess Patient's room?  Too funny. 



Hmfph. Those pictures looked better on my phone.  I did finish the entire skein and really wished I'd had another.  It looks like this project will take 3 or perhaps even 4.  But its a secret project, so no more info here.  No sirree, not till its ready!  Her royal Patientness is now recovering at home, and luckily her pain is manageable with the drugs so far. Nothing breaks your heart like seeing a child you love in a hospital bed.  T minus 3 weeks till surgery number 2.  Insert a big sigh here.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vintage Family Linens

While we were up for my dad's wedding, my sister and I took some time to go through some of the boxes of linens from my mom's side of the family.  We found some real treasures and it has certainly fanned the flame of my love for vintage items.  When I moved to Florida I thought maybe I'd try to go a bit more modern in my decor, but I can't ignore my love of cabbage roses, toile and hand embroidered or crocheted lovelies.  Here's a few of the cutest things we found.

Blue Irish linen embroidered hand towels. Why didn't anyone use these?

My favorite find - cock tail napkins. See his little drink? They are too cute.

A hand embroidered breakfast bib with bunnies. How sweet is that?

A set with table runner and several round cocktail napkins, embroidered with bluebirds.

As much as we loved unearthing these beautiful keepsakes, it was a little sad too.  I dearly wish I'd taken the time to go through them with my mom when she was still alive and we could have talked about who made what, or what special occasion something was used for.  Some things I know, like her mother quilted and my dad's mom did both knit and crochet, but there is so much that I don't know or just don't remember.  It makes me listen that much more to my dad when he talks, in the hopes that I'll remember and be able to pass on family details.  I also am going to try to make notes to keep with my vintage linens, handmade items and other treasures especially since some are family pieces and others are things that I've purchased.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Familiar Voice

Today is my day off and I've rewarded myself by sleeping in and having a lazy morning of websurfing and coffee drinking and doggie tummyrubbing. In an effort to actually get something done today, I downloaded a new book from Audible.com because i m desperately trying to stay away from the tv. I've read or listened to several Anne Perry books, but realized that I've never read the book where Charlotte & Thomas Pitt meet.

So I just downloaded The Cater Street Hangman, uploaded to the Ipod and ... The narrator is Davina Porter! I adore listening to the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon in audiobooks. There are two Outlander books that aren't available through Audible, so I bought the paperbacks and the funny thing is, that as I read them, I heard Davina Porter in my head. She has a delightful accent, and adds just the right tone to the books. She adds character to the narration, and I just adore her. This is a better treat today than a bowl of ice cream!

I'm off to unpack more boxes from the big move, and get lost in a murder mystery from 1881 with one of my favorite voices.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Modern Vintage?

I was running late for work this morning and decided to make coffee at home but put it in a thermos with my breakfast to take with me.  At least that way, the shop would be open and chances are that I could nibble at my yummy blueberry scone in peace and quiet any how.  My first thought was to reach for what I call the major silver bullet - its one of those stainless steel thermos' that you see everywhere these days.  I have a small one that a friend bought for me (which was really sweet, but as a non-coffee drinker he did not realize I needed the big daddy size!) which is called the minor silver bullet and a larger one that I got for myself.  Some days you only need a cup, but some days ... well you know the drill.

Unfortunately, I haven't unpacked either silver bullet yet, despite the fact that it feels like I've been unpacking for ages.  Then I remembered something I bought at TJ Maxx several years ago, just because I thought it was pretty and it has been unpacked.   Its an enamel thermos with the glass interior and an aluminum top.  Now the unusual thing about this thermos is that its pale blue.  Yes, that's right - blue!  When I was a little girl my mother, father and big sister all chose blue as their favorite color.  Not me.  No sirree.  For as quiet and shy as I normally am, I do like to feel special so I would have been darned if I chose the same favorite color as everyone else in my family.  Pffht.  So red was my official favorite color until I was about 28 when I discovered (yes Al Gore, I discovered it) green.  Sage green, thyme green, lime sherbet green, evergreen, blue spruce green, you name it - I love green!  Perhaps not day-glo green, but I'd probably pick it over blue.  If you asked, I would tell you that 90% of my home and probably 80% of my wardrobe is either red or green.  Long story short, pale blue is not often found in my home unless it was a gift.

Anyhow, here's my breakfast. 

I love that this is a vintage-looking thermos, but its not.  I also love that so many fabrics and stationary goods and other home decor pieces are out there now that are current and up-to-date, but really inspired by vintage items.  I also think this is going to be the color palette for some of the decor in my new home.  Pale blue with red and pink.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fresh Start

I've been thinking alot about fresh starts lately.  I've just moved my home and business to a new state, and of course that makes for a fresh start in my entire world.  New house, new neighborhood, new shop location and the opportunity to put new habits in place that will be good for me, for my business and even for my dog.  Katie has certainly benefited already - she gets bored with travelling the same old path everyday, and we have lots of options for our morning, afternoon and evening walks now.  (I'm sure she misses 'the land of chicken bones' but it seems people here in Florida don't toss as many chicken wing bones outdoors as some of our Virginia neighbors did, thank goodness!)  As I mentioned, my dad got married last weekend and that's the fresh start of a lifetime.  Deciding on decorating themes is a slow process, but I've got some fresh starts in the new house too.

I've been surfing the blogging world alot lately for fun and inspiration, and I enjoy seeing banners and headers change with the seasons or with a new focus on a different craft or whatnot, so I thought I should get with the program, so now my blog has a fresh start as well.  I've switched to a new theme, added a wee bit of color and a custom header.  Its fun to shake things up every once in a while, and now things here are PINK!   I do miss having a big photo of a pink peony, but I think this change is for the good. 


Ah, that's better!

Friday, August 13, 2010

You're always a weiner at Pedro's

What trip along the East Coast is complete without a visit to South of the Border in South Carolina?  When I was a little girl, our family drove from Buffalo to various Florida destinations about once a year and we almost always stopped to take a picture with Pedro the mascot of South of the Border.  We have tons of shots of my sister and I slowly getting taller while the same statue of Pedro gets shorter.  I think his statue was about 5 feet tall.  Needless to say, the little town has developed quite a few more buildings in the last 30 years, not to mention the giant elevator ride to the top of Pedro's Sombrero tower (seen in the background below).   A couple of years ago, I stopped and took a shot of my dog Katie reluctantly standing next to Pedro just for a giggle.  Much to our surprise, when we stopped last week we could not find a short statue of Pedro, so we had to pick a tall one for our family photo shoot.

niece and nephew with tall Pedro

Katie has chosen not to participate in this picture.  Wait till I dig out an old picture of me & my sister - I'm sure the little ones will roll on the floor laughing.  They sure do enjoy seeing old photos of their mother, and as the little sister I do my best to pick out the worst ones. ;)  Luckily she knows I'm just teasing.

Unfortunately, I was not able to capture any good shots of the fun billboards that entertain travellers throughout North and South Carolina.  Some of our family favorites are the one with the big hot dog that says "You're always a weiner at Pedro's - You never sausage a place!" and the one with the rotating sheep that says "All your sheep are counted at Pedro's."  I loved those billboards as a child, and I must admit I still get a kick out of them!  There are many more fun animal statues in the little town though and the kids especially liked the elephants ...

"My, what big tusks you have!"

I found it very difficult to make time to blog while on our trip, and the resulting guilt is not a good feeling.  Ah well, tomorrow is another day, fresh with no mistakes in it, as Anne of Green Gables would say.  (Ha - there's the green for this month's NaBloPoMo theme! Green Gables!)

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On the road again ...

Well this blog post a day concept is not going too well. We're headed up to Virginia for my father's wedding this weekend, and I just didn't find the time to write. On Tuesday, I had the day off and 'green' was taking my green SUV to the dealership to have the timing belt and water pump changed. Apparently the powers that be think that sort of thing should happen after 100,000 miles. Holly (my green SUV) has gone well past that point & I didn't want to jeopardize a 950 mile roadtrip there or back. It took all day & then I started packing last night.

Wednesday brought more packing, a harried day at work, and 300 miles of driving. Todays green thought will have to be envy of everyone who is better at time management than I seem to be. It's definitely a skill I need to learn.

Catch you tomorrow!

Monday, August 2, 2010

In which our fearless hunter discovers a grasshopper

Hey whats this?
I've seen the coolest grasshoppers a couple of times now here in Florida.  I think they're called Lubber Grasshoppers and they are so colorful.  Their primary color is a sort of maize gold and they have stripes and dots of black and sometimes a swipe of reddish orange along their back too.  They blend in well in the shadowy spots under trees where they rest on the dead leaves.  I've been trying to get a photo of one so I can check to see what the species is exactly.  I saw one this morning on our walk and Katie was just as interested as I was ...
Ack! Big dog on the sidewalk!

I see you in the grass

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lawn Mowing Lessons Learned

I'm going to try to keep up with daily blogging and I thought using the National Blog Posting Month theme might help.  This month's theme is green, which can of course be interpreted and discussed in about a gazillion ways.  Today will be all about lawn mowing.  My home in Virginia was a townhouse with a postage stamp sized front yard that was covered with the shade from a lovely pear tree.  No need to mow there.  It became a bed of mulch with some shade loving plants scattered here and there (mostly where I could manage to dig a hole around the tree roots) so I haven't had much experience mowing in the last 15 years really.

Fast forward to the house I just moved into recently.  First, its a house which means it has a real yard.  Not a big yard, but a real yard nonetheless and there are two slim side yards and a courtyard in the front of the house too.  Lots of mowing space, even for a small property.  Its not exactly chock full of lovely grass, but there is alot of grass growing in the sand and dirt combo that seems prevalent here near the water.  Some pretty ground cover plants too, and it seems a shame to mow them down, but you can't exactly mow around them, now can you?  I was thinking I'd get a reel mower since I didn't want to deal with gasoline or a crazy long extension cord.  But the very nice man who does maintenance for my landlord brought me a small mower one day that someone had given away, and it works great.  Its 22 inches wide so its very manageable for a girl like me and I am actually enjoying it, and I've learned a few lessons along the way.

Lesson number one:  gas mowers need to be primed.  Feel free to laugh hysterically here.  Since it was a hand-me-down mower, I didn't get any manual or anything with it and although Max told me how to start her up when he brought it over, I had completely forgotten.  All I could remember was that you need to hold down that little bar.  After some frustration, I finally found the little red priming button and BINGO! Started up like a dream.  Not that I normally dream about mowing the lawn, but there it is.

Lesson number two:  When you're mowing a combination of grass and what we'll generously call ground cover (ok, its alot of weeds), its perfectly acceptable to NOT mow in straight lines just like your dad did.  You know, like this:

Click to read an interesting article on how to achieve this

Growing up in Buffalo, we had a large yard with lovely grass and my dad would carefully mow it in straight lines because that was the best way to go - it was easiest and it appealed to his need for symmetry, like all engineers.  Square yard equals straight lines.  My yard has a huge oak tree in it, with roots above the ground and a flowerbed in front of the courtyard wall that has a lovely meandering border.  No straight lines here.  I was a little uptight about that the first time I mowed it, but I quickly learned that you can't see how I've mowed this lawn, you can only see that its shorter than it was yesterday.  This is very good for me, since its impossible to mow straight in certain areas in this darn yard.  Get a grip, Ellen - who is uptight about these things, anyway?

Lesson number three:  If you mow the lawn in your old running shoes with the mesh inserts over the top of your foot, the mower kicks enough dirt and sand back at you that your feet actually get dirty!  Now I don't just mean your sneakers, I mean your FEET!  I should pr0bably be mowing in my construction boots.  I was horrified to see not only the dirt around the top of my socks but dirt IN my socks.  Can you believe it?  The dirt is propelled so strongly that it goes through two layers of fabric.  Gee, can you tell where my socks ended?  Too funny! 

Ah well, all's well that ends well, right?  I now have a beautifully manicured lawn and after I swept up all the grass clippings from the sidewalks and the driveway, I am quite sure I lost a pound or two.  Its sweaty work when its 93 degrees outside, even if I was in the shade for the most part.  I felt too gross to grab my camera for a final shot so you'll just have to believe that its lovely.

See you tomorrow!