Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekend Reads: High Brow Halloween {Traditions, Confections & Collections}

MiniPumpkins


While we carved pumpkins last night my husband asked where "Jack O' Lanterns" came from and I told him about an old Irish Myth. My facts were a little murky and my husband was laughing at me ("What? Seriously? You know the story?") Of course I know the story - that's my bag, man!

Since you might be interested in a few interesting tidbits as well I'll give you my two favorites:

Find out how Jack O' Lantern managed to irritate both god and the devil.
via Urban Threads (Get the tutorial here!)

Regarding witches - well I can't find a singular resource so I'll have to do my own little rehash of something I heard a few years back. (NPR?)

Essentially it goes like this - what we now call witches were more like ancient healers and people trained in natural brews, concoctions, herbal remedies, etc. Before the Roman Church took over the brewing reigns Celts and other early civilizations did their fair share of brewing. Ok, long story very, very short - beer was sold at the markets and in order to stand out/be easy to find it is thought that the brewers, often women, wore tall hats that could be seen about the crowd, hence a tall, pointed witch hat. The pointed style of the hat could be attributed to the style of the day, or the type of hat typically worn by someone in that specific industry - not sure. Either way the tall, pointed hat was like an early neon sign - "Beer Here!".

Recently Em and I were discussing this whole thing while he was making a homebrew and was preparing the "wort". I remarked that perhaps this is where the idea of witches having "warts" came from. Perhaps. No idea if that is true but interesting to ponder.

Eventually and obviously witches and herbal-based healers got a bad reputation and along with it went their garb. The stigma stayed attached and the witches hat became a symbol of that stigma, more so than its original and actual use.

On to the weekend reads/links!

Halloween Confections:


Spider Cookies from Sweetapolita

Amazing Ghost Cake from I Am Baker


Scary Silhouette Cake also from I am Baker

Day of the Dead Skulls from Vosges


High Class Halloween
Modern day Red Riding Hood from Mrs Lilien


Heirloom Quality Papercut from Mr.Yen - use it again and again!

More autumn than Halloween - but there are pumpkins and eye candy - Inspired Room

A Classy Gothic Wedding  - The Sweetest Occasion

Have you scared up some crafty ideas this year?  Have a happy Halloween, Autumn-Filled Weekend!

Forgotten Friday

A Friday tradition. Something forgotten, made still life.

Catching fireflies (lightning bugs?)


Fireflies


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Homemade Holidays: Truffles

I realize we American's aren't quite past Halloween yet but I've already got the homemade holidays in full swing...as well as the music. While the holidays may seem eons away for some, for others of us they are far too close. A mere two months until Christmas, and just slightly more than a month until Chanukah!



Truffles


Irresistible truffles are the perfect way to any chocolate lovers heart. Truffles that melt on your tongue and leave lingering tastes of raspberry liquor, or the sweet heat of ancho chili will win you possible lifetime-devotion. Who can resist the velveteen grace of a perfect cocoa bite? Certainly not I.

Thus truffles are top of the list for homemade holiday gifts. Aside from the plain version, which stands head and shoulders above most other chocolate treats, Chambord/Raspberry Liquor, ancho chili, and almond versions are also in the works. I've yet to get my hands on some lavender but it's on the list as well. For more adventurous eaters (like moi), balsamic, curry, and coconut-lime are certainly something to consider as well. Or make your own creation!

Though a bit messy, truffles are a snap to make. They also store well - perfect for working ahead. Now I realize there are a million variations recipe-wise, and my method may not be the one you prefer, but I like ease and simplicity so, for me, this recipe is perfect.

Chocolate Truffles
Yields about 100-150 truffles (depending on the size you prefer) I use:

2 pounds excellent quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 cups of cream
1 vanilla bean
2 cups cocoa powder - I prefer a very high quality extra brute variety

Shave chocolate or finely chop.

Begin melting chocolate in a double boiler (or a metal/ceramic bowl set over boiling water (not touching).

Scrape vanilla bean. Bring bean, seeds, and cream to a boil in another saucepan.

Once the cream is good and hot remove the vanilla bean and add to the chocolate. Mix until incorporated. This can look a little strange at the beginning but just keep stirring, it will eventually blend into a beautifully silken chocolate.

Pour chocolate mixture into a 9 x 13 dish and put in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, until stiffened. You can leave it overnight if need-be, just warm a bit at room temperature before you begin working with the chocolate.

To form truffles you can scrape the chocolate out with a melon baller, or, my preferred method is to cut directly into the chocolate ganache - cutting rows about a half an inch apart the length and width of the pan/dish. Each of these squares of chocolate I warm in my hands to form a ball and then promptly roll in a dish of cocoa powder to coat. I prefer this method because it yields more consistently sized truffles.

Some methods will have you melt more chocolate the coat the truffle in, then roll in cocoa powder but I prefer to simply use the heat of my hand to melt the truffle a little before tossing in the cocoa - also find this results in a perfect layer of cocoa, not too much, not too little.

To add flavor, such as a liquor or chili - add to the chocolate mix before chilling. For the liquor a small bottle (like airline sized) yields a subtle flavor, two bottles for a stronger flavor, or between 2 and 4 ounces. For chili this depends on your preferred level of heat. Two teaspoons is more than fine to me, and if you like you can add some chili to the cocoa when coating as well. For nuts chop these finely and roll the truffles in them to coat instead of cocoa. The possibilities are pretty much endless...as will be the appreciation from your friends and family when they open a box of homemade truffles at the holidays.

Truffles keep well in the fridge for a week or so and freeze beautifully. I recommend, when thawing, to move the storage container directly to the fridge to thaw first, then to room temperature before eating (helps avoid any condensation issues that might arise - which might result in needing another toss in some cocoa).

What sweet treats do you have on your holiday to-do list?

Happy homemade holiday confectionery making!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Roundup: Cloth Diapers

Some of you know, some don't: I used to have another blog called CrunchyLuxe. My husband an I co-wrote it but not often enough to matter.  It was a great outlet to discuss something near and dear to me, which is, essentially, how to be "crunchy" and live a luxe life all at once. And while that is great and still "me" is isn't really the direction I wanted to go. So I took it down.

And I keep getting questions.

And people still keep asking for one thing. Over. And over. And over again.


So, while CrunchyLuxe is no more people still want the info I wrote on Cloth Diapers...something we will hopefully be leaving behind soon. Tonight I am doing a presentation about cloth diapering at the local library. I realize many of you have no interest in this info and for that I apologize, but, for those of you that have been asking, here you go...all in one long post. Good luck, happy diapering, pass it on.

When I first delved into the world of cloth diapers I had no idea the myriad of stuff out there - and was totally overwhelmed. A word of warning - if you are thinking about cloth diapering it can actually be quite addictive and fun.

The Fundamentals

Why cloth diapers?

Well, for one disposable diapers do.not.decompose. I know people have done more sophisticated number crunching but for our little girl that would be a hell of a lot of diapers - if she wore diapers for 2 years only that would be at minimum 5000 diapers.

There is a lot of back and forth about the environmental impact of constantly washing/drying diapers - and while I will say that is a valid concern, you do not have to do 3 washes for every set of diapers you wash - nor do you have to wash every single day. Currently we wash every 2-3 days. I do a cold pre-wash, then a warm wash. If there is stink (rarely an issue) or I feel the need to "strip" the diapers I'll do a hot wash with an extra rinse and add in some Dawn at the beginning.

Along with the impact of washing you could consider the soap/detergent to be a negative - but, again, I don't find it to be an issue as our diaper detergent is totally natural and biodegradable.

What is available?


 Prefolds
What most people think of when they think of cloth diapers. The "burp cloth" looking rectangle of fabric that you fold and pin on a baby. Now you don't need pins though - you can use what is called a "Snappi" which grabs the fabric and keeps it closed, or you don't have to close them at all since you'll most likely put a cover on to stop the leaks


 All In One (AIO)
 
Just like what it sounds like - this diaper has everything all in one place. These are the most like a disposable diaper you will find. All you do it put under the baby, fold up, like a disposable, and snap or velcro closed. Great for husbands, in-laws, grandparents, babysitters, etc. Only downside is many take a long time to dry.


Pocket Diapers

A pocket diaper works just like an AIO except the absorbent lining comes out. In this case there is usually an opening in the back of the cover of the diaper (or sometimes front) where you stuff the liner or doubler (a liner that doubles your absorbency) into. When you take these off your child you pull the liner out and wash as well as the pocket diaper it went into. These are faster to dry than AIOs but require you to stuff/unstuff the pockets.


Fitted or Contour diapers

Both of these require you to use a cover to prevent leaks - that sounds like a lot of work but it really isn't. Fitted diapers are basically an AIO with no cover - they have elastic in the leg gussets and snap closed - they work almost like a disposable. Then you place the cover on.

Contour diapers are like prefolds except you don't need to fold at all - you just wrap the wings around and pop on a cover.

Covers

Come in about a million prints and varieties - you can get anything from a more plastic-y fabric (PUL) to fleece to wool. Whatever floats your boat here.

We use cloth wipes too! Love them, love them, love them! They go in the laundry with the diapers. I love the Kissaluvs Terry, but our favorite were custom ordered work-at-home mom wipes. I ordered them in a "half size" (aka the size of the plastic wipe box I repurposed). One side is a cute cotton print, the other is a bamboo velour.

For great WAHM wares and eco-friendly supplies check out Hyena Cart. Or give a search on Etsy.

Making Cloth Wipes and Dealing with Rashes

For a long time we used something called Baby Bits, a glycerin-based soap bit that you dissolve in water and pour over your wipes. Supposedly you use 1 bit per cup of warm water. That doesn't work to dissolve the bit or make enough solution for us so we pour boiling water over 1 bit and pour over our wipes - I used 2.5 cups of water per box of wipes. I use a plastic container from disposable wipes and fill it to nearly overflowing with cloth wipes, then pour our solution over. Once the wipes are wet they compress and there you go, one nice full box of wipes. The great thing about cloth wipes? Well, where you would normally need a few 'sposie (disposable) wipes you rarely need more than one cloth. In fact, I can't remember using more than one...

You can also make your own wipes with a recipe...here's a few links:

From Makebabystuff.com

From eZine

There are also foaming solutions and sprays.

If you are diapering a newborn, or are exclusively breastfeeding you may consider not using a solution at all and going with just plain water on your wipes. This is especially helpful if you have a very sensitive baby.

Since my daughter has a sensitivity and develops rashes really easily we've found the best solution for our wipes to be witch hazel - diluted half and half with water. Sometimes I will add Grapefruit seed extract as well if she's having a bit of a flare up. Grapefruit seed extract is excellent for yeast issues and as a general anti-microbial.

Rarely did we need a diaper rash ointment but when we did we went through every natural, and some not-so-natural, solution we could find. Nothing worked. There is one solution that works for us time and again - plain ol' olive oil. Even with her very worst rash ever our daughter had a healed bum within one day of using olive oil on her. Make sure to dry the bum well after cleaning too!

In rare instances you may have a yeast infection in the baby - this requires more extreme measures. You will need to strip your diapers and use grapefruit seed extract to kill off the yeast. You can use gentian violet but it tends to stain. Another recommendation is to use plain yogurt as a diaper cream/treatment. Even with non-yeast related issues we've found this to be a great healer as well.

Washing Cloth Diapers

Welllll...everyone has their own method but ours is pretty simple. For regular everyday washing we do:

1) Prewash on cold. I will often add a tablespoon of OxyClean to help keep our diapers nice and stain free, but, we live in a cold climate where I can't put the diapers outside all the time to sun out stains (more on that later). I will often add a bit of vinegar here as well - about a quarter cup.

2) Wash in warm, 1 rinse with 1-2 tablespoons of Crunchy Clean (or here) detergent, or my recent favorite Rockin Green (great for us because we have hard water) and another tablespoon or so of OxyClean. You can also use free and clear detergents.

If we have any smell issues or an extra dirty load I will do:

1) Prewash with OxyClean and a squirt of Dawn (yes, the dish detergent)

2) Wash on hot with an extra rinse cycle

I've also used  BacOut, an all-natural odor and stain remover with some success as well.

Removing Stains

Well, we use OxyClean for everyday and cold weather stain removal but, if the weather is nice and you have some sun the best and most eco-friendly method is to leave the diapers damp after washing and put them outside to dry in the sun. The sun will bleach the stains naturally and you'll save on the energy use from a clothes dryer.

Another method to consider is liners - there are both reusable and disposable liners. This is more important if you are particularly concerned about stains, do not exclusively breastfeed, or have a child with more "advanced" bowel movements (aka "real poop"). If you are using the disposable liners a good practice to consider is throwing the liner in your wash if it has only got urine on it. The liner comes out soft and clean and can be reused until it either falls apart or becomes soiled. We don't use liners and have no problem just using a sprayer...

Also, consider a diaper sprayer. There are many out there but these attach to your toilet and help remove soil from diapers with a squirt of pressurized water. Again, this is more useful for non-exclusively breastfed soiling, but, if you are particularly stain conscious it might be something you are interested in all the way through. We wouldn't be without it and it's easy and fast for rinsing number 2 diapers.

Yes, cloth diapering can seem totally overwhelming at first but once you get the hang of it it really isn't that big a deal.

Frequently Asked Questions

This Seems Like a Lot, How Do I Get Started?
Well, you can dive right in or you can do diaper trials. Jillian's Drawers has a $10 trial program many people seem to love. So do Daisy Diaper, Parenting By Nature (for you Canucks), Green Mountain Diapers, and Nell's Natural Babies offers rentals! Super for the newborn phase!
How Many Diapers Do I Need?
Well, depends on how often you want to do laundry, really.

For the newborn stage I recommend 24 diapers + some prefolds. Since you use prefolds for darn near everything they are always good to have on hand whether you use them as diapers or not. We had 12 Kissaluv Size 0 fitteds, 24 prefolds, and 4 covers. If I did it again I would have doubled the number of Kissaluvs. BUT, since A. grew out of these within about 6 weeks and was changed every 2.5 seconds (sometimes literally) it simply wasn't worth the investment at the time.

In retrospect if I did it again I would do:
Small/Newborn:
12-24 Kissaluv size 0
24-30 prefolds (12 in small, 12 in medium)
12+ AIOs in each size, small, medium, and large
6 pockets

OR

12-24 Kissaluv size 0
24-30 prefolds (12 in small, 12 in medium)
12+ one-sized pockets

Pockets would have been the best and cheapest way (aside from prefolds and covers) way to go (we couldn't use prefolds because little one freaked out when wet). I have been able to make back most of my expense in resale and the actual cost margins are lower than I expected at the outset. If we did it again (we're not though) I would probably go pockets all the way. I thought they would be too much to handle - all the stuffing, etc but they dry faster. Frankly, I spend more time folding and sorting out kitchen cloth: towels, wipes, bibs, napkins and clean-up rags. My biggest advice is this - never buy a ton of anything until you know you like it, never feel like a failure if something doesn't work for you, and never be afraid to ask questions. Try to have fun - and yes, diapers can be fun!

What is "prepping"? How do I do that? When do I do that?

Prepping is done with NEW raw and unbleached cotton and bamboo diapers - so basically any prefolds and many fitteds. To prep your diaper you will need to wash and dry the diapers a few times - anywhere from 2-4 times to strip all the natural oils off the diapers and make them absorbant. To prep you wash on hot with detergent and, I like to add a squirt of dawn for the first 2 times. Then dry. Repeat. The last wash I do plain with no detergent to get any remaining detergent out and do a final dry. After this your diapers are ready and every time you wash them they will get a little more absorbant.

I like to avoid prepping as much as possible because it is frankly, a pain, and sometimes can seem wasteful. I avoid prepping by buying used - that way it is already done for me!

What is "stripping"? How do I do that? Why do I do that?
If you are getting odor problems or your diapers don't seem to be absorbing correctly you strip your diapers. You can do this by either repeating the prepping process 1-2 cycles or by boiling your diapers. This will strip off any excess detergents you might have on the diapers - which often will make them repel liquid, and can help kill ammonia smells.

What is a "wetbag"? Why would I need that?
A wetbag is a water resistant sealed bag used to store your dirty diapers when out and about. Often wetbags are zipper topped and PUL-lined cotton. You can get all different sizes but a medium one works fine most of the day, for us at least.

What is a "Snappi"? Why would I use that?
A snappi is a y-shaped plastic piece with combs on each end - you use them to hold prefolds together (if you so choose) in place of pins. Though snappis can replace pins and put many at ease for the fear of stabbing their kiddos they are also sharp and shoudl be used with care. They can snap back and wack you - not so fun.

How do I fold a prefold?
I'm no expert in this area since prefolds didn't really work for us but I can direct you to other sites with pictorials:

Green Mountain Diapers

eHow
DiaperHyena


My diapers stink! Now what?
Here is a method from Jillians Drawers:

Use baking soda and vinegar! Here's how:
  • Do a cold rinse.
  • Use your regular amount of detergent.
  • Add 1/2 cup baking soda and a Downy ball filled to the top with distilled white vinegar. Start your washer's hot cycle.
  • After the diapers have agitated, but before the hot water has drained, stop the cycle (this can be done on some washers by leaving the lid up).
  • Let the diapers soak overnight.
  • Close the lid in the morning to complete the cycle.
The baking soda neutralizes acidic odors, removes acid and protein based stains, and softens the diapers. The vinegar neutralizes alkaline odors and removes alkaline based stains. Rather than adding the baking soda to your washer on wash day, you can add it directly to the diaper pail before you begin to fill it with diapers. This will help keep your diaper pail smelling fresh. Note: if you have hard water, use borax instead of baking soda.

How can I make my diapers last longer?
More helpful insight from Jillian's Drawers:
Here are some things that you can do to help your diapers last longer:
  • Hang dry overnight, or partially dry in the dryer and then hang dry.
  • To keep diapers soft, do not dry on your dryer's hottest setting.
  • Minimize use of bleach.
  • Never use fabric softener.
  • Use 1/2 cup lemon juice to whiten.
  • Sun them, even in cold weather, to freshen and remove stains.
I often will wash our diapers first then throw them in the dryer. The AIOs are never dry after just one cycle - which is the major downfall of AIOs. I then wash our regular laundry while the diapers are in the dryer. When I throw the regular laundry in the dryer I'll throw in whatever diapers are not dry. If they are still not dry I continue this process until the laundry is done or I hang them to dry. They are usually (I can't think of an exception) dry after hanging overnight.

Can I sell my diapers when I'm done with them?

Yes, you can sell used diapers - there is a huge market for them and they bring good money. I have sold all the diapers we've used and earned back at least 1/2 the purchase price almost every sale - sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the style, brand and need. I usually use Diaper Swappers but have also used Hyena Cart.


What the heck are all these acronyms and slang I see on message boards and blogs?
CD: Cloth Diaper
'Sposie: Disposible (diaper or wipe)
PF: Prefold Diaper
AIO: All in One Diaper
AI2: All in Two (usually the liner snaps in)
BV or OBV: Bamboo velour or organic bamboo velour
UIPF: Unbleached Indian Prefold
UBCPF: Unbleached Chinese Prefolds
CPF: Chinese Prefold
EBF: Exclusively Breastfed
EUC: Excellent Used Condition
VGUC: Very Good Used Condition
GUC: Good Used Condition
PP or PP addy: Paypal or Paypal address
FFS: Free for shipping
PPD: Postage Paid
PUL: polyurethane laminate, a material used to make diaper covers/wraps, the outer of many pocket diapers or AIOs
PL: Potty learning (the PC way of saying Potty Training, I guess)
EC: Elimination Communication
SAHM/D: Stay at home mom/dad
WAHM/D: Work at home mom/dad

Also, if you use DiaperSwappers, or want a significantly more complete list see here.

I'm curious as to why the difference between the brands--is it style, fit, cost?
All of the above, actually. Diapers are clothes, essentially, and fit each baby/child differently. My daughter has a big belly and skinny little chicken legs - so some diapers done "seal" close enough around her legs (the Magic Alls for instance). Also, some people prefer aplix/velcro over snaps or vice versa. When a child gets older and figures out how to get out of their diapers the type of closure becomes more of an issue, for sure. Some people prefer snaps as they can't wear out like velcro/aplix as well. Velcro will pill and curl but you can get the exact fit you want every time, with snaps you are limited to where the snaps are placed on the diapers.

Style/Cost

For least to most expensive it usually goes prefolds, contours/fitteds, AIOs, pockets. But there are some exceptions. For one, Goodmama fitteds cost $35 new - which is way more than many pockets or AIOs. Also, AIOs may be cheaper than pockets but you have to buy them in sizes (sm, md, lg) and have those as your child grows whereas many pockets are one size (OS) and should last the term of your diapering.

Fit

Every diaper fits differently due to a variety of factors: closure type (snaps/aplix), size of diaper (stuffing in pockets, thickness of the fabric), style (fitted/AIO/pocket/prefold ), or style of sewing/make, the elastic used or the placement of elastic, the fabric, etc, etc. The trick is to find what works for you - which is why a diaper trial (above) might be a great idea!


Note: I have to apologize - I'm not sure where some of these images came from. Hopefully you'll forgive me, since you probably already know that's not really my style but if you own one and want credit please let me know!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Knit me a sweater, I'll love you forever!

This past weekend we heard about something peculiar happening at the fairground near our house - something we positively had to take the little Miss to see. While it isn't all that odd to hear about something peculiar happening at the fairground this had all the hallmarks of an excellent time: animals, luxury fibers, vendors, and competition. Oh, and it was free.

Any ideas what it was?

Alpaca Trio

It was an "Alpaca Extravaganza".

Of course the little one loved it...but she was quite confused. "Sheep!" she squealed. Followed shortly by "Dog!" and, at one point, "Horse!". Honestly, she couldn't be more right. One touch of the exceptionally soft, pillowy, light-yet-dense fur and you want nothing more than for every Alpaca to be miniaturized and sleep at the foot of your bed - your own personal little sheep-dog-horse.

Alpaca White

Having not really given the whole thing much thought I had no idea there were two distinct breeds of Alpacas: Suri and Huacaya (pronounced Wah kai ya). Huacaya is what you see above, whereas Suri's have a more "dredlocked" appearance and are more rare.

The Suri has fur that grows parallel to their body, whereas a Huacaya's fur grows perpendicular to their body. Only about 5% of the Alpaca population is of the Suri variety and their fibers are highly sought after.

Personally, it was all so soft I could barely feel it so I don't think I'm too discerning when it comes to Alpaca fiber.

Alpaca Congratulations
Prizewinning Huacaya Alpacas in the ring

And while it makes perfect sense, I really never thought of Alpaca competitions either, but they are much like dog or other animal husbandry competitions. Shape, form, fitness, etc are all taken into account.

Alpaca Judging2


Alpaca Judging1

My grandfather was a huge fan of alpaca fibers and clothing. He wore, almost exclusively, Alpaca fiber sweaters - I think for a few reasons:

1) Alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic
2) Alpaca fiber is incredibly lightweight but very warm
3) Alpaca fiber is sustainable and eco-friendly for the most part
4) Alpaca fiber is stinkin' soft as all get out.

When my daughter was very young we had a purple Alpaca sweater in the house - when she was inconsolable you could slip on the sweater, swaddle her up, settle in to the rocking chair and almost invariably she would settle a bit. Speaking of...where is that sweater...

Certainly a fun, entertaining and educational experience - we wouldn't hesitate to go again. Though we might think twice before letting a toddler catch a peek of the world's smallest and softest teddy bear ever created (with a hefty $65 price tag). It almost made me want to take up knitting again (until I realized I already gave everyone I know a scarf and there ends my knitting ability).

Alpaca

Oh - and just for the record - Alpacas and Llamas are related but they are not the same. But, just because it made him laugh, though they are of no relation, in honor of my grandfather I give you:

The Lama
By Ogden Nash

The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama.*

*The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Weekend Reads {shops}: Gifting Guide

As the holidays draw ever closer I find myself recommending gift ideas left and right - normally something I steel myself against doing. As you may have figured out I'm not big on consumer culture and like to urge handmade, re-purposed, or otherwise recycled goods. It's not that I don't lust after tons of new things its just that we have enough. Most of the time, at the end of the day when my daughter has strewn every possession within reach through every corner of our house, I think we have too much.

But I love the holidays and I love gifts. I can't deny those facts. So here are a few ideas to get you started in the "off the beaten path" direction for holiday giving. Some are philanthropic, others re-purposed or recycled, some handmade, but add some heart, meaning, and beautiful intentions to any gift and I think you'll find your given (or gotten) a treasure.

Three Potato Four


Talk about a feast for the eyes - Three Potato Four is a collection of vintage, vintage-inspired and custom goods. I love a purpose for re-purpose and they certainly pick things that most anyone would find delightful, fun, or a whimsical addition to their space.

Personally, I love the Milk Bottle Carafes that come in a three-pack. I've been dying to get my hands on some of those glass yogurt containers for some time (to no avail) but these are a close second. Aren't they fun?

For you Philadelphian's they have furniture too - and it is gorgeous! For the rest of us though, well, we can delight in the rest of their stock. For example:

For the doctor in your life: A Test Tube Stand

For an accountant or number lover: Tally Counter Collection

For a teacher, cook, or just about anyone: Ceramic Ruled Pitchers

There is so, so much more - check out their shop for a visual treat or their blog for other delights.

Punjammies

Ok, admittedly this is pretty much a "ladies only" gift but who cares? Punjammies are part of the International Princess Project, an advocacy program developed to provide for the "physical, emotional and spiritual needs of women formerly enslaved in prostitution; and advocate for women enslaved in prostitution around the world." Essentially, it is a program that helps women who were in enslaved prostitutes to learn a trade, become self-sufficient and empowered, and to become in so many senses of the world: free.

Seriously, who cares what they sell right?


Except that what they sell is awesome! I want them all - they look like the most divine jammies ever - in gorgeous colors and patterns, pair them with their organic cotton tops and just consider me done in. Plus - their prices are as good or better than many retailers that far too many of us frequent that have questionable practices and ethics.

Back of the shirt reads: Made with Hope in India by International Princess Project and Freeset. I'm cool with that!

If you don't want the jammies maybe consider donating - they have that option too.

The Commission Project by Paul Ferney

I realize offering a limited run, very custom project will probably make this link to Paul Ferney's amazing project relatively short lived but that's ok - you should know about him anyway. Paul is a San Francisco artist, husband to Jordan of Oh Happy Day! (which, admittedly, I love, love, love).


The Commission Project is relatively simple - you pick a picture you love, commission a painting, and by a specific date (in this case probably the Dec 17 deadline) you'll get a custom work of art of that image. Amazing custom gift and you get to say you are a "patron of the arts". Did I mention the amazing gift part? Amazing.

Ketti Handbags

If you have a photography lover in your life, and a purse lover then I have the gift for you. A one of a kind, unbelievable Ketti bag. I have a friend who has one...she came over for a playdate...I secretly had to stare at her bag for a moment before a quick restroom trip. It was stunning. I drooled a little - not on the bag, of course. Talk about a work of art to encase your tool for art!

both via Kettihandbags.com

If you're not in the market for a handbag/camera bag but live in the Seattle area Ketti (that's her name) is an accomplished photographer as well. How 'bout a session? Check out Ketti Photography for more.

Have an inspired and gratitude-filled weekend!

Forgotten Friday

A Friday tradition. Something forgotten, made still life.

Tractor

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Milwaukee Love

I should probably wait until I have some images of my own but I'm positively bubbling over with anticipation for our upcoming Milwaukee visit. Every year, for the past few years, we've made it a point to visit Milwaukee for at least a day. This year it could be this weekend (provided the weather cooperates).

"Milwaukee?" You say. Yes! Milwaukee is so underrated. I get it. I'm an east coast girl - Wisconsin was at the bad end of far too many stereotypes and bad jokes. Know what? They are wrong...and right. I mean yes, there is cheese...and beer...but it is all so good!

Before Eh graced our lives with her presence we spent a fabulous Thanksgiving in Milwaukee filled with art, music, shopping, and fabulous food. Ever since then we return as often as we can, which, for some reason, always seems to be in the fall.


We stayed at the County Clare Inn, a quirky little B&B complete with an Irish pub, plentiful live music and darling rooms. It was fabulous - and a perfect place to retire after a long day of sightseeing. Nothing is more accommodating than a warm fireplace, a beer in hand, a great band and a quick walk to your room at the end of the night.


First order of business was a trip to Broadway Paper, mecca or all things paper and ephemera. It was one of our first stops and continues to be every time. You can be sure if there was a Milwaukee trip that year there will be something in the stockings from Broadway Paper.

Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward and Riverwalk District
via The Waterfront Center

Just up the block from Broadway Paper, aside from a number of other tremendous Third Ward District shops, is a Goodwill (given the nifty name facelift of "Retique"that has quite the heavenly selection. It's become an addition to our places to visit because for a $50 budget we can get quite a haul of barely worn lovelies - including a cashmere J Crew sweater I got last year for $9. A great thrift find is always a fun score and, on a more serious note, an excellent choice for our environment (see here for a provocative article on "Waste Couture").

Our time in the Third Ward wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Milwaukee Public Market - where we almost always end up getting tea, spices, and lunch. An indoor market, it features a variety of fresh, local selections, gourmet and sweet treats, and specialty vendors....and it's fabulous.

Visually striking in every aspect and down every corridor, the Milwaukee Art Museum doesn't disappoint. It is easily walkable from the Third Ward, and absolutely not to be missed. The jaw-dropping architecture by Calatrava certainly steals the show at first but the works held within the museum are quite stunning, varied, and well curated. Always an enjoyable stop.

If I started talking about the food here I might not stop - let's just say we've done it all...ok, ok, a few restaurants varying from the very fanciest to the not so fancy and have been impressed every time. Milwaukee has some good eats!

Know what though, for all the beer-talk about Winsconsin we've still not been to a brewery! So this trip we hope to rectify that little misdeed. Mmm! Can't wait to get there all over again and take some pictures of my own to share with you. Keep those fingers crossed that the weather stays lovely, will you?

Do you love someplace that is often misunderstood? Tell me about it - we love to go new places and explore!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekend Reads 10.15.10 Warm Hearth Edition

Since I've been drooling all over a pile of cookbooks lately I figured the least I could do is share a little of the love...not locally though. Sorry friends, I'm not returning these bound bundles of yum to the library until I have to!


First up: Eat Feed Autumn Winter: 30 Ways to Celebrate When the Mercury Drops by Anne Bramley with photographer Tina Rupp.

Dappled with quotes, gorgeous photos, amazing pantry tidbits, and interesting informational anecdotes this is as much a cookbook as it is an afternoon with the most likable and knowledgeable chef you've never met. The fact that there is a section that says "stock up on pickles" doesn't skew my opinion in the least (complete lie). I dare any of you brussels sprouts disparaging crowd to try the "citrus bacon brussels sprouts" just once and report back to all. For the rest of you I assign the "honey ginger carrot and parsnip latkes with créme fraîche". 


I won't even begin to lie - I picked up A Platter of Figs entirely because of the cover. The photography is equally lovely inside as well (by Christopher Hirsheimer) and David Tanis does an excellent job of mixing both more difficult and easier recipes with a variety of flavors. For a taste of the content and the recipes check out this article (which I found because I was trying to figure out if the photographer was also the founder of Saveur - I refuse to believe any one human is that talented but indeed she is. Yes, Christopher is a 'she'. Three cheers for the ladies!). 


Lest I go on forever I've leave you with a beautiful cookbook/memoir hybrid. I'll warn you - about midway through Molly Wizenberg's delightful A Homemade Life, I did a huge ugly, sniffling, the first time you read Of Mice and Men style sobfest. No worries, by the time she gets to the final "Winning Hearts and Minds Cake" recipe whatever part of your heart was broken will be bubbling over with joy. At some point I will stop telling every soul I meet to read this...but I don't see it happening all too soon. FYI - Molly blogs over at: Orangette.

On the virtual print front pretty much all my favorite food blogs got a mention from none other than Gwyneth Paltrow recently - so no need to recreate the wheel, check out her selections here. A blog not mentioned but absolutely should have been is La Tartine Gourmande which I have been reading for an unbelievably long period of time. Béa's growth artistically and otherwise is documented in an astounding way through her blog, recipes, and photography. I've enjoyed her journey and identified with many of her stories of the years - which is why, when we had our daughters within days of each other I was pretty floored, and secretly thrilled we would continue to be, in some small way, in a similar place in our lives. I have so appreciated her contributions over the years and look forward to more.  

Newcomer on the scene who I'm also excited to see more from is Melissa Hartfiel, check her out and give her some love!

If you're not in the mood to read take a peak at this fascinating little video on old-school book printing!

Happy hearts, hearths and weekend everyone!

Forgotten Friday

A Friday tradition. Something forgotten, made still life.


S&H


Somewhere we still have some of these - the last I saw they were tucked in a photo album of my mother's childhood. Green Stamps, also known as Victory Stamps, were given as credit for purchases at places like the grocery store. Those stamps could then be used as credits toward a reward at the S&H catalog.

Interestingly enough the company hasn't gone out of business - though they were purchased and updated for the advent of the internet. A full book of stamps - 1200 of them, will garner you a whopping $1.20 reward...hardly worth the funky taste in your mouth from licking 1200 stamps and affixing them to booklet pages.

Still S&H Green Stamps are an interesting historical artifact. Booklets and stamps are available in pretty good supply in auctions and places like ebay and could make for some interesting craft projects or ephemera decoration.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Setting Limits, Designating Spaces and Assigning Intention

Thank you, everyone, for the positive feedback to the guest post on Scoutie Girl yesterday. I know commenting on a blog post takes time and thought and I appreciate that you were willing to share both of those with us all yesterday.

One commenter, Jess, made an interesting point about the internet. She said:

I’m wondering about taking this one step farther, though. I am absolutely appreciative of the internet – I love connecting with people all over the world, sharing ideas via blogs, and being able to sell products while I’m sleeping. But despite its benefits I am definitely aware that my use of the internet sucks creative time from my life. There are just so many things to be distracted by.

I absolutely agree, and I have a few thoughts to offer.

First though, I thought I should clear something up  – we turned off cable but we do still have a television. It isn't turned on very often but we do watch movies and programs available via streaming media. A few readers seemed to think I was gesturing toward abandoning television entirely, which we did not, but we have significantly reduced our interaction with television. Additionally, watching TV in this manner is far more filled with intention and choice - it requires a more active participation and selection of programming and does not give the option to "channel surf" nor the dependence on set times for programming. We're also ad free, which is fabulous.



AlmostOpen
Getting back to Jess' point though – I too adore reading blogs, browsing internet marketplaces and it can, absolutely, suck you in time-wise. This is very much an area I struggle with as well. I do have a few thoughts or challenges to offer though that you might consider.
Because the internet is a transient, changeable, and virtual space it can be difficult to apply the same rules we might in a "real" physical space or setting. Many of us can now access the internet practically anywhere at any time - even while flying. Applying the rules and social norms we apply to friendships we have offline to those we have online may help define some limits that will aid with internet usage.

Designate a time for your internet 
We would never expect or accept a friend being in our house all hours of the day for a limitless period of time - talking to them as we drift off the sleep or listening to them as soon as we wake up, inviting them into the bathroom with us or other private spaces. Consider limiting your internet usage the same way. If you wouldn't be comfortable with an actual person being in the room or with you while you are doing whatever you are doing then perhaps that isn't the time or space for the internet either.



PrettyInPink


If you have an internet connected "smart" phone consider removing social networking applications from your phone. You can try one at a time or all at once.  Try it for a week. Just one week. I did this and it was incredibly liberating. Since then I reinstalled things because we traveled but I am removing those applications. Right now.

Done.

Now consider designating actual time slots for your internet usage. My best and most productive time is while my daughter is napping. Your best times depend on your personal work and productivity habits. That said though if you are hoping to accomplish something and you know you are most productive in, say, the morning, consider NOT connecting to the internet until after that task has been achieved. For instance, if you have a presentation to get done at work immediately sit down and work on your presentation. Only once that main goal for the day is done do you go ahead and check your email. Work-wise you may find that the best thing to do is not have your email always on, but rather to check at designated times throughout the day. Read and respond at those times but not in a scattered manner throughout the day.



Hydrangea2

Designate a space for your internet
I have got to say – having a desktop, an office, a physical space to work and browse the internet in is the best. Hands down, the best. Before I had an office I was an internet transient - the computer would show up on the couch, in the bed, the kitchen table, etc. Had I known how much better designating a specific space for my work and internet time would be we would have done this years ago. Having a space helps get my head in the right mental place as well and confines my usage of the internet and work to a designated area that doesn't physically or emotionally overlap my time with my family. This is crucial stuff - being able to define family time, personal, and work time as distinctly separate is both difficult and fulfilling. If you have a laptop I recommend trying to designate a space and sticking to it - just like with the phone, for one week. Then go from there.

PurpleConeflower

Assign an Intention
Before you begin your time online consider assigning an intention. Some days the intention may be as simple as "entertainment", other days more complicated – "seek inspiration", "write one blog entry", "respond to all outstanding emails", for instance. Having a goal, an intention, a guided path in mind helps to define both your time and your successful use of that time. This goes for pretty much anything in life, but maybe just try it with internet time first and go from there. If you are interest in an online forum to voice your intention as a way to feel more purposeful in it check out Intent.com from the daughter of Deepak Chopra, Mallika.

Hopefully some of these ideas help a bit. Do you have tips, techniques or other ideas? Please let us know - we could all use the insight!