Thursday, April 30, 2009

She’s crafty


The other night, a few women came over to craft. It started as a wish expressed by a neighbor to carve some dedicated craft time into her life. To have some time away from her responsibilities as a mom, wife, employee, and just do something to nurture a long-neglected part of herself.

This is where I get to do what I do best: play hostess. My entire life I have earned such nicknames as “social butterfly” and “Julie, your Cruise Director” because I like nothing more than to make social things happen. Dinner parties (any kind of party, really), brunches, play dates, and now, the craftathon.

Honestly, the most amazing thing about the evening (and a testimony to how much we all needed it!) was the fact that everyone showed up. On time even. Kids were fed or tucked in, kisses goodbye given, and then it was our time.

The reality is that more people didn't craft than did, but there was no shortage of good conversation or good intentions. And we left the evening with promises that this would be a monthly event, and that we'd all be ready to get down to crafting next time.

Note: one of the reasons not everyone crafted was that some folks didn't know where to start. Being the prepared hostess that I am, I had put out a pile of books (my "inspiration library") for this exact purpose. They included:

Bend-the-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew by Amy Karol

Button It Up: 80 Amazing Vintage Button Projects for Necklaces, Bracelets, Embellishments, Housewares & More by Susan Beal

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule

Stitched in Time: Memory-Keeping Projects to Sew and Share from the Creator of Posie Gets Cozy by Alicia Paulson

What are some of your sources of inspiration?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

31 Flavors

the body of a woman
Photo by Amma Maw

This post is not about ice cream. Not directly anyway. It's about women, and our bodies, and our relationships with them. It's about the fact that multiple women, ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties have started conversations with me in the past few weeks about how they've gained weight and how unhappy they are about it.

This is a topic I have touched on before. And, in one way of another, it's been one I've been having my whole life. The degree to which I obsessed about my weight when I was a teenager is just sad. And now I'm stuck is this weird limbo, alternating between wishing various parts of my body away and the recognition of just how ok my body is. More than ok, really. I mean, I can walk and dance and make love and rock my child to sleep. And what more do we need a body for? And yet.

Without exception, the women who have brought up the subject of their weight to me lately are beautiful. They too have bodies that work, but they are also physically lovely. They have different shapes and sizes, different curves and soft places, and they all look great. And, even more than that, they are amazing people. Mothers, students, artists, academics. They are intelligent, creative, nurturing — so much more than the sum of their parts. And yet.

How much time have we lost punishing ourselves? Dieting, bingeing, suffering, opting out. And for what?

Please hear me: you are lovely. Look at the women around you. Not the ones in the movies and the magazines. Look at the women next to you in line, on the bus, at your child's school. Be as kind and gentle to yourself as you would be to them. Try experiencing your body for what it does for you and yours — the strength in your back and arms when you lift a child, the power of your legs as you walk up that hill. The hip onto which you can sling a kid or a sack of groceries (or both!).

Look, this is so easy for me to say and so much harder to live every day. But I know in my very bones that this is the truth, my truth. And I know how deeply sorry I will be as an old woman if I look back and see that I wasted not just the years of my youth, but these wiser years, when I knew better. Please join me.

And if you know a woman who is struggling, send her this link. Or better yet, call her up and tell her how lovely she is. It will mean the world.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rhubarb Muffins

rhubarb muffin

Last week I was on a big rhubarb kick. I never had rhubarb growing up — I don't even know if it entered my consciousness until we moved to Portland a few years ago. Then I discovered its sour/sweet yumminess in all manner of baked things and I was hooked.

I started the week with the rhubarb cobbler that Angry Chicken mentioned here. It was good, but not quite my perfect dessert (even with the vanilla ice cream we slathered on top). I used the remainder of my rhubarb in a muffin recipe I first got hooked on last summer. I remembered it as being good, but I didn't realize how good until I went to take a photo and saw that I was down to the last muffin. And I'm sorry to say it was I who ate. them. all. (well, not that sorry!)

Bon appetit!

Rhubarb Muffins adapted from
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. buttermilk
2/3 c. oil
3 c. flour (I use half whole wheat and half white)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1.5 c. chopped rhubarb

Mix wet ingredients together. Add dry and stir to combine. Fold in rhubarb. The batter will be really thick. Scoop into greased muffin tins and bake at 325 degrees for 25-35 minutes.

Note: I make my muffins just a little sweet. For a little extra sweetness, mix 1/2 c. brown sugar with 1 T. butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over muffins before baking.

In the Pink

Walking down to the local wine shop to get some local pink rosé*, I was struck by the pink landscape around me. All these images are within a 15-minute walk of my house. The last few, including the gorgeous pink tulips, are in my front yard. I love spring!

* First of all, yes, I know saying pink rosé is redundant. I was making a point for emphasis, since my post is about pinkness. Secondly, a note about my rosé quest: Every year my best girlfriend and neighbor, Jacqueline, and I embark on the quest for the perfect rosé of that year. We're looking for the right balance between acidity and minerality — usually somewhere between a typical French rosé and an Oregon Pinot Noir rosé. in previous years, we have loved Noccetto, Chiaretto, and Patton Valley. This year, we haven't found it yet, but we're just getting started. Part of the fun is the search, after all!

If you're interested in helping us further our research, please note your favorite discoveries in the comments section. I'll be sure to post again, later in the summer, when we've found the one.

Cheers! (Not sure how this turned into a wine post, but really, shouldn't be too surprising!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Link love

I haven't had much to say this week — I'm back in a sewing frenzy and it's taking both my time and my creative brainspace. But I don't like feeling that there's a big gap in my blog life, so today I am sharing some recent link love with you. Here are a few design/creative blogs I've been following lately.

Awesome, creative color palettes at Creative Holly Color

Assorted design and mothering thoughts from Design Mom

Sewing, quilting and fabric yumminess at The Quilting Diaries

Random design lovliness at Design Is Mine

And some great resources and tips for designers and artists at The Artists Center

Do you have some favorites to add? Please do so in the comments!

Monday, April 20, 2009

A perfect weekend

This weekend was Portland at it's best. Clear and warm, with everyone finally coming out of their winter hibernation. We spent lots of time outside, eating and playing, and just drinking it all in.

For those who don't know Portland, featured locations here are Jamison Square, the Portland zoo, and Tin Shed restaurant, as well as many front yards.


Jamison Square

Anna at Jamison quare

Jamison Square

Blocks with the neighbors

Anna and David at the zoo

Spinning with Daddy

Anna at the zoo

Anna at the zoo


Anna and Chiara

Tin Shed

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lost. And found.

I got lost today. It was so weird because one minute I knew exactly where I was, and the next minute, I was totally lost. And it was also weird because I was home, in Portland, although admittedly off my usual beaten path.

The thing is, it really freaked me out. I mean, I knew I wasn't permanently lost or anything, but the feeling was just awful. I called David and barely choked out the words “I'm lost” and “I just want to come home”. He wanted to help, but really, I had to find my own way. I was lost enough that I couldn't give him anything to work with to help me figure out where to go next.

Once I got home I realized just how much the experience had taken out of me. Although, start to finish, I was only really lost for 5-10 minutes, my energy was just gone. I felt off. I think that the experience really tapped into something primal for me.

At the risk of making a bigger deal of this than it was, I think in a way I was dealing with my own sense of vulnerability and, ultimately, of mortality. The experience of knowing where you are one minute and then, one wrong turn (or wrong move, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time) and what you thought was reality, isn't. And, of course, that's how life really is when we are able to see past the illusion that anything is certain.

So there it is — one day I give you applesauce cake, and the next, this! But there is an upside: although I am now over the immediate feelings that being lost brought up, I am very much aware of what it means for me. It means that I want to spend this weekend enjoying my time with my little family; appreciating them and the time I have with them. And appreciating being found.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Applesauce cake a 3-year-old can make

applesauce cake

When Anna and I want to bake something yummy for snack time, this is one of our staples. It's super easy, not too sweet, and works nicely for breakfast (it's actually quite healthy) but disguises itself as a “treat”.

As with most things I bake, I modified the original recipe to include whole wheat flour, and I dramatically cut back on the sugar.

After it's cooled, you can make it a little sweeter, and a little more fun, by dusting with powdered sugar. And don't think this cake is only good if you have kids — it's perfect for that 3 p.m. pick me up with a cup of coffee.

And no, Anna did not clone herself! That other head-banded beauty is Anna's friend, Emma — because applesauce cake is best when shared!


Applesauce Cake (modified from FamilyFun, September 2007)

1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup white flour
1 t baking soda
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 t vanilla
1 cup unsweetened applesauce

Mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add in eggs and sugar. Add applesauce and dry ingredients and mix (with a spoon, not the beaters). Bake at 350 in a 9-inch, sprayed (or buttered) cake pan for 35-45 minutes (the time can really vary — you want it to be firm but not too hard.) Let cool for an hour if you can stand the wait — then dust with powdered sugar (or not) at enjoy!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My day job


As much as I love this bloggy goodness, it doesn't pay the bills. For that I am lucky enough to have a great job with a wonderful boss — me! I am a graphic designer and, through a combination of choice and luck, I work primarily with universities and non-profit organizations on their printed (usually) materials.

For the past six months I have been working on my dream project — the annual report for Mercy Corps, a humanitarian aid organization working globally to help people in a huge variety of ways. If you're curious, you can view the full annual report that I designed here. It's a large pdf, so it can take a while to fully load if you're not on a fast internet connection. I am so proud of this piece, both because of the people it represents and because I believe it is my best work to date.

Monday, April 13, 2009



There is very little stuff that remains from my childhood. This stems partly from my previously-mentioned tendency to purge when I feel overwhelmed by clutter, and partly because I've moved a lot. David and have moved 8 times (in 4 states) in the 16 (gasp!) years that we've lived together.

But lately I've become more sentimental. It's due in large part to the death of my dad, but I also think being a mom and hitting the 40-milestone both tie in as well.

When I was a kid, Wilbur sat on the passthrough between our postage-stamp-sized kitchen and our dining room, always there as a visible reminder that there just might be cookies to be had. Frankly, there usually weren't (a result of nonexistent baking skills and frequent calorie-counting on my mother's part).

On our most recent trip to Florida, I finally brought Wilbur home to Portland. Anna was so excited when the UPS truck arrived with the box he was in. As soon as I unpacked him, she was hugging and kissing him (despite the fact that he most certainly needed a bath!).

Wilbur was washed and filled the following day. For now, he's got some little, kid-friendly cookies from Trader Joe's in his belly, but soon he will be filled with yummy, homemade delights that Anna will grow up both loving and taking totally for granted. Wilbur and his belly of love and plenty will just be there throughout her childhood.

And many years from now, when Anna has a child of her own, I'll give her Wilbur and he will mean to her then what he means to me now. Home.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Drunk with color

Yesterday Anna and I walked up the street to our neighborhood library. I brought my camera to shoot some photos of the local color on the way. Three hours (!!!) later, we completed our 10-block circle, drunk with all the beautiful colors. I don't know if Portland is stunningly, ridiculously beautiful this time of year or if we're all just so starved for color after the long, grey winter that we're easily cheered. Either way, it's all everyone talks of these days — the blue sky, the sun, the flowers popping up everywhere.

Of course, today we're back to grey again, so I'm giving these photos to you as my gift, to fill your days with color until the sunshine beckons again. Sort of like Frederic, one of my favorite childhood stories by Leo Lionni, a graphic designer turned children's book illustrator back in the 1960s.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring, part 2


This weekend was typical of Portland this time of year — too many fun activities to choose from. Since we had temperatures in the 70s for the first time in months, we opted for an outside adventure. Although we had no idea what trilliums were, we headed south to Tryon Creek State Park for the Trillium Festival.

The park itself is only about 10 miles south of Portland, right next to Lewis & Clark College. And trilliums are lovely, 3-petaled flowers which bloom there this time of year. The park has lots of trails for all levels or hiker — we opted for the easiest since it was Anna's first time and I, true to form, was dressed exactly wrong for the circumstances.

We strolled for a bit, looked for wildlife, and brought home a trillium of our own which Anna and David planted in the back yard.






Saturday, April 4, 2009

She wants to be a dactah!

Upon leaving the West Boca pediatric ER at 5 am after Anna was diagnosed with pneumonia:

Anna: Mama, when I grow up I want to be a doctor.

Me: That's great, honey. What makes you say that?

Anna: Because I want to hurt people the way they hurt me tonight.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Down the rabbit hole

It's gotten to the point where I could spend my entire life on the web. Between blogs and Etsy, there is now this spiral where one thing takes me to the next and so on until I am so deep in other peoples amazing talent that I just have to come up for air.

The latest example of this began at The Black Apple. Actually, that's not even true. I can't even remember which blog led me there, but they were featuring little collections of things and I clicked on a painting of Emily's at The Black Apple. Turns out not only is she yet another Portlander, but I had marked her as a favorite on Etsy when I first discovered it over a year ago.

Perusing her amazing work, I landed on these paper dolls, which I instantly loved. At first I thought I'd get them for Anna and save them until she's older. But then I read Emily's suggestion of framing the sheets just as they are. I love that idea because, really? They're for me. They will be hanging in my office just as soon as they arrive. And maybe, when she's older, I'll share them with Anna!

Anyway, The Black Apple's Etsy shop led me to wonder if Emily has a blog, which of course she does. Actually, she has not one, but two blogs. The main blog, Inside a Black Apple, shows her work, as well as other designy/inspirationy things. Her second blog, Some Girls Wander, is her fashion blog, which is to say it's mostly photos of her in the cutest outfits you ever saw. She has the kind of style I'm sometimes tempted to imitate, but which can only be pulled off if it's genuine.

From her fashion site, I was led to HEL-looks, a site featuring photos of street and club fashion from Helsinki, Finland! Who knew?!

Writing it down here, it doesn't sound like the time-sink that it was, but now all of these new discoveries are on my NetNewsWire feed (I have finally got the subscription-thing down!). I think in the future I'll be changing up my list of blog addictions on the right a bit more frequently to share the love.

If you've discovered some blog/Etsy site that you'd like to share, please let me know in the comments. You've all been so quiet lately I'm starting to wonder if you're still out there. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?