Thursday, October 28, 2010

My latest effort

A friend of mine recently took a trip to Bali and brought me back one of those big rectangles of fabric that are used as wraparound skirts. Well, they're a bit impractical to wear on a regular basis, so I altered it a bit.

Introducing: the Bali Skirt.

It's the first time I've ever worked with a zipper. I thought it was going to be terrifyingly complicated. It was actually very simple.

I admit it's better suited for summer. It doesn't look quite right with booties and a sweater. But you can bet I'll be wearing it quite a bit when the weather warms up again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Missed connections

I got a call from someone today, a friend I went to high school with.

I had received faxed documents from him just a few minutes before, and I noticed his name written at the top. I had no intention of actively pursuing a conversation with him (we hadn’t been close friends), but I decided that if he called to confirm the fax, I would certainly reintroduce myself and we'd have a momentary reunion.

Shortly after the fax came, he did call to ask if it had been received. My voice was overly cheerful and a bit too loud as I answered that yes, we had. I smiled wide and paused, my lips on the cusp of forming themselves into the words. But then I couldn’t decide on which words to use. Hi, remember me? Hey, it’s Missy, your old high school chum? Should I say anything at all? Would it be awkward?

I paused, he paused, and the silence was like a canyon between us for five very long seconds, until he said thank you, and I said have a nice day, and we both said goodbye.

I hung up. I still don’t know why I choked.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A garden, a puppy, and some birds

My summer, in photos:

Late, but fashionably so

Remember that chair I was working on upholstering? The one that I started in January? At the time, I thought maybe I was in over my head. I probably was.

I finally finished it a couple of months ago, but I never posted pictures. Was I busy or just lazy? Probably some of both.

But eight months later, here it is:

See? Hard work does pay off. I love this chair.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oh the irony

I apologize for not writing since July. Remember I said I got that job? Yeah. It's been a little overwhelming. But I think I'm finally adjusting.

Anyway, we got a free sample of this Dentley's Rawhide Munchy Bone in the mail. It claims to have a "taste that dogs love" and to offer "hours of entertainment for your dog."
I would like to take this moment to observe what happened to the Munchy Bone.

Nothing. See it right there? It's still sitting there on the floor of my living room, untouched.

The box it came in, however, is shredded.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pancakes in a can? Yes, please!

We found this pancake-batter-in-a-can and we had to try it. I mean, aerosol pancakes. How cool is that?

We tested it out not long ago. So now, for your viewing pleasure, this is Pancake #1.

Notice how Andy reads every single ingredient. It's almost like having the can right in front of you!

Though Pancake #1 was a bit thin and sickly, Pancake #2 turned out much better.

We weren't paid to advertise, or anything. We just thought it was cool. Even the name is cool: Batter Blaster! It's like a breakfast superhero!

Monday, June 28, 2010

So does this make me an official adult now?

I had been waiting to post this for the sake of some things to work out at my current job, but now that everything is in the open there....

I got a new job!!!!

A REAL job! Full-time! With benefits! And a bigger paycheck! In this economy!

I'll be the transcript manager at the university I graduated from a year ago. It involves not only sending and receiving transcripts, but also assigning academic advisors and working with professors to make sure final grades come in, and so on.

I think it will be a little strange to return to college not as a student but as administrative faculty. I'll have to call my former professors by their first names, and my relationship with them will be as an equal rather than a student.

My inner worrier and people-pleaser starts to surface with these thoughts. Will those former professors be disappointed somehow? Will they feel that I'm not living up to my potential because I haven't moved on to some successful big-city career? Am I just capitulating to my own expectations of whatever is supposed to happen after you graduate? But that's crazy anyway, because I've never been a stereotypical "ambitious career woman."

Maybe I'm disappointed because I haven't yet done what I originally set out do do -- become a writer.

But lots of people want to be writers. And the bills still have to be paid.

It seems that I will worry no matter what happens, so I intend to start my job with optimism and confidence, and awesome office supplies from Knock Knock, like these sticky notes.

Photo via Knock Knock

And who knows? Perhaps I will decide to pursue graduate school as well. With a full-time job. Now that's crazy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mango with Chilli

I picked these up at an Indian store.

They were gross.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Illustration: Yelena Bryksenkova

I found the most amazing artist -- a young Russian-born illustrator named Yelena Bryksenkova. Perhaps I'm a little biased, but I love both the style of her art as well as the subject matter. So many of her illustrations remind me of Prague. In fact, some of her pieces are based on scenes from the Czech Republic, as well as other places in Eastern Europe.

Check out her website. Some of my favorites include "In the Flowers," "Elephant Dream," and "Ziegfeld Girls." Don't miss the Prague 2009 sketchbook.

You can buy prints at her Etsy shop. Check out this print I ordered spontaneously because I had a feeling it wouldn't be there long. It so reminds me of the kitchen in Prague.

"Kitchen" by Yelena Bryksenkova

I've been wanting to include more art in my home, but most of it is exorbitantly expensive. I really can't fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars for art. I can't really even spare $50 (but I might have to soon, because these Lost prints are amazing).

But for $10, I can put art like "Kitchen" on my walls.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm Listening To:

Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan's debut album, Sea Sew.

She used to sing with Damien Rice, but he gave her the boot, for which I am actually thankful, because this album makes me happy. 

Sea Sew sounds like summer to me. I listen to it and in my head, I see images of linen summer dresses, cool grass, lemonade, sunlight through the trees, and the ocean -- not necessarily because of the lyrics, but just the sound. The songs are sweet and poetic, and she has such a pretty voice.

I know it was released like two years ago, making this post a bit behind-the-times. I don't care. I'm listening to it right now and I wanted to recommend it.

Also, she really did sew her album jacket. That's a skill I admire.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The thought that crosses my mind today

For quite a while now, I've been feeling a sort of professional malaise. I don't know if it's appropriate to describe my current job(s) as dead-end, but those are the first words to come to mind.

I know, I know -- I am supremely lucky that I'm able to make money and pay the bills in this economy, etc, etc. But at the same time, the jobs are lonely and not really what I set out to do. I came into these jobs expecting them to be temporary stepping stones to the places I wanted to go. But when does temporary end?

As time passes, and as job prospects are few and far between, I'm finding myself mildly considering graduate school.

Yes, I think I really did just say that.

It's not that I never considered it. It's just that it was always a "Maybe Possibly Someday" in my mind, rather than a "Perhaps This Fall."

There are some serious pros and cons to hash out. I don't really want to write more research papers -- or a thesis, for that matter. But I can't deny that having a goal to work toward would be a nice change from my current state of monotony, even if that goal is just getting another degree.

And I won't lie: the prospect of taking more literature classes does make my inner English minor feel giddy. She had really hoped to be an English major but never got the chance.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dear College Degree,

You are no help at all.

I'll let you make it up to me: you help me get full-time employment, and I will conclude that I haven't wasted my time with you.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Water, water

I try to drink lots of water, but I don't always succeed. In fact, I don't usually succeed, because most of the time, I don't think about it. Hydration doesn't cross my mind until I get super thirsty, which is usually late in the evening after a day of not drinking enough. Those days usually end with headaches.

Actually, I get headaches a lot. They're never far away, so drinking plenty of water is one of the ways I can stave them off. It's one of the variables I can control.

Just a few days ago, a friend gave me one of these stainless steel water bottles from Vessel Drinkware.

Besides the fact that it's cute, it's also very personal. For many years, I used to draw a penguin/owl/bird thing, with big eyes and little feet. It was sort of my signature or trademark, if you will, and I drew it on everything. This little penguin is reminiscent of that.

It doesn't make water taste plasticky or metallic, and it's easy to drink from. Maybe it's just because it's new, or because the penguin is cute, but I have been drinking bottle after bottle of water the last few days, effortlessly.

I do really hate having to use the bathroom a lot, though.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New purse

I made a purse. I think it turned out pretty nicely.

I used a bag pattern from tiny happy and a flower pin pattern from wise craft.

Now I can't stop making these flower pins.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tasty spices

This is my favorite spice company. I think it's easy to see why at first glance. Look how full that jar is!

Alchemy Spice Company is run by a young guy here in Chattanooga (it was started by someone else, but he runs it now). I did a story on the company for the magazine, and I learned about how he and a couple of his friends roast and grind their own spices, label the bottles, and then sell them locally.

These spices taste incredible because they are so fresh. I just bought this jar of Indian spices the other day and haven't used it yet, but I know from experience that the Italian spice blend is delicious. I don't think I can ever go back to any other grocery-story brand of Italian spice again.

Does that make me sound pretentious? I certainly don't mean to be. I just love food that tastes good.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My latest book

I just finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Apparently I've been living under a rock because I hadn't heard anything about it until a friend recommended it. I was a bit put off by the title. I shy away from titles like this because to me it feels staged, as though the publishers are trying too hard. "Hey read our book! Look how quirky it is! It's quirky, isn't it? Everyone loves quirky!"

But despite my misgivings, I will always give books a chance regardless of their titles, especially if they come with a strong recommendation.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It's written entirely in letters (epistles, not letters versus numbers or binary code), which is probably difficult to pull off successfully, but this book succeeds. I loved the characters as well as the story, and the book made me want to go to Guernsey, which is an island in the English channel. (I did not know this before. That fact makes me feel uneducated.)

The woman who wrote it, Mary Ann Shaffer, became ill and couldn't finish the book. I think it was her niece who took over the writing so it could be published, and Mary Ann passed away shortly after. The death of the author doesn't necessarily make a book good, but it did make this book feel special, knowing that a woman who had always wanted to write a book finally did before she died.

So now I'm recommending this book highly, and I'm joining the ranks of all the other people who recommend it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Crazy Critters: Not so much

I've seen these Crazy Critters things everywhere. They're supposed to be perfect for the dogs who tear up toys and leave stuffing all over the floor. Like my dog.

My carpet is always covered in great gobs of white stuffing, so I looked into these toys. They're touted as "Super strong and durable!"

A fluffy toy that is also strong? I've been dreaming about a dog toy like this!

I haven't bought any, but after looking at them, I can say one thing with certainty: Miles would rip through a Crazy Critter in 10 minutes flat. Sure, there wouldn't be any stuffing. I'll give them that.

Instead, there would be little bits of fur all over the floor. He also eats those little bits of fur.

He is like the Tasmanian devil, a little tornado with teeth. And if there does exist an indestructible toy (some say the Kong fits the bill), he isn't interested. See, the irony is, Miles will only play with toys he can destroy.

This is why I buy him cheap pillows. And give him cardboard boxes. And why my floor is messy 98% of the time.

Books: Quickly disappearing

Remember when I posted about these gorgeous Penguin books designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith?

And when I posted about having gotten my first two?

And when I said my favorite cover was Crime and Punishment?

Amazon has all the books, except for Crime and Punishment and Madame Bovary. Those ones are apparently very difficult to find. Madame Bovary is now up to $55 on eBay (as opposed to $13.60 for the other ones on Amazon). A copy of Crime and Punishment sold on eBay recently for $106.

I am starting to feel desperate.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My favorite album right now

Actor, by St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark).

She's like a grown-up Eisley, a band I used to really love. Both the lyrics and the music have same whimsical, ecclectic quality, but her music isn't cutesy, and it has a dissonant edge. It feels like the musical equivalent of Alice in Wonderland (the book, that is) or The Wizard of Oz -- trippy, but in a good way. 

The song "The Neighbors" sounds so similar to songs on Eisley's first album, Room Noises. I never liked Eisley's second album (I don't even remember what it was called), precisely because it distanced itself from the qualities I loved most to begin with. At the time, reviewers loved it and said the band sounded so much more grown up, but I just thought they sounded less unique. 

I've heard they're coming out with a new album soon, which I will certainly listen to, but no matter what it sounds like, I have found a new favorite artist: St. Vincent.

Here's her song "The Strangers." 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A book-lover's dream tutorial

I posted about this before, but I couldn't remember when or what I titled it (so much for organizing by useless titles), so I had to go through every one of my past posts one by one, starting from the beginning. Fortunately, it was only a couple months after I started my blog so it didn't take long to find it. Lucky me.

Anyway, I love books, especially pretty ones, which I'm sure is no secret. I posted about these gorgeous book purses from Rebound Designs a year ago. (You can find the post here.) At the time, I lamented about how expensive they were ($125, $150, etc). I'm sure they were lots of work to make, but I couldn't afford them, no matter how hard I whined.

Well, let me introduce you to Remodelaholic. She made one of these purses (possibly without even knowing about Rebound Designs, which just goes to show that great minds think alike) and posted a tutorial on her blog with clear, detailed instructions.

It looks super easy and the results are beautiful. It is now going into my mental filing cabinet under Stuff I Will Make As Soon As I Am Able, Which Is Hopefully Soon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A fine beginning

My collection has officially begun. I couldn't help starting it. Just the fear that the books could go out of print at any moment has spurred me on.

Jane Austen seemed the perfect place to start, especially considering that I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time about a month ago. I know, I know, Gasp, How could you? etc, etc. And I haven't read Emma (though I did try when I was younger). 

My justification for waiting so long? I wanted to read a version with a cover that would enhance and reflect the beautiful story inside. I just didn't know that at the time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beautiful design

I recently discovered a wonderful shopping experience right in my backyard. Well, not literally, but here in Chattanooga, some great shopping has popped up in one cool place called Warehouse Row. I went there just the other day to shop at a new cosmetics store and it was perfect and I intend to visit again soon.

I probably wouldn't have blogged about this had I not seen some of these photos that I just HAD to share. I love clean, white design and lots of, well, white space and white colors and white textures (though I also enjoy other colors). I'm posting these because they made me swoon. They're from Revival Uncommon Goods and Amanda Pinson Jewelry.

Unfortunately, I can't afford much of anything offered in these boutiques, but the design is inspiring nonetheless. I want to live right there in the store.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Salt, Cooking, and a long treatise about Time

I love to cook because I love to eat. I love food that is fresh and flavorful, and the canned/packaged/prepared stuff just doesn't cut it. Call me spoiled.

I grew up with a stay-at-home mom who cooked nearly every day. Our one-income family of four didn't have the funds to eat out very often, so eating out was for special occasions. I probably took for granted the wonderful meals that Mom prepared day in and day out.

Photo from stock.xchng

I recently heard a statistic that Americans consume on average more than twice the daily recommended amount of sodium. The maximum should be 2300 mg a day, which is about a teaspoon, but 1500 mg is better. The majority of that sodium comes from prepared foods. (Is it bad that a maximum of a teaspoon of salt a day seems like an impossibly small amount?)

Sometimes I think my lifestyle is a bit boring and it feels as though I'm not living up to my potential, but from another perspective, I am fortunate. I have time to go home and make lunch every day.  I have time to cook decent meals every evening, even if they aren't always exotic and complicated.

Many, many other people do not have time for that. They regularly eat prepared foods from grocery stores or restaurants because they have to, yet there are aisles of cookbooks promising meals that are Easy, Fast, Delicious! and plenty of cooking shows on TV, and cooking programs available for Wii and DS, etc, etc. But how often are meals really cooked at home? There seems to be a disconnect between our desired lifestyles and our actual ones. I know a lady that orders food from Schwan's, and that's pretty much the only "cooking" she does. Ever. That makes me feel a bit sad.

Cooking on a regular basis is still new and fun for me, but I don't always want to spend my free time cooking. I'm guessing it will only get easier to shove cooking to the back burner.

But see, I don't want that to happen. I don't want to feel like I don't have time for things like cooking.

Maybe that's not a cooking philosophy. Maybe it's a time philosophy.

I never want to be so busy, so weighted down by obligations, that I don't even have time to think about cooking, or reading, or taking a slow evening walk with Andy and the dog.

Right now we don't have kids, or stressful jobs, or meetings for organizations, or any of the other things that demand precious minutes from the day. I used to be concerned when people asked me what I did in my free time, and I had to respond, "Nothing, really."

It's true. I do whatever I want to do, which is usually nothing exciting. I cook. I watch movies. I play with the dog. My lifestyle doesn't lend itself to exciting stories told to family and friends. It used to make me feel boring.

But when it comes down to it, that's ok, because I know what I don't want: stress. I have been stressed to the point of nervous breakdown and panic attacks. I am prone to stressing about insignificant things.

While having this free time may not be much of a choice right now, I suspect that one day it will be. I'll have to say No to things that I'll feel obligated to say Yes to, so that I can come home and cook, and do nothing and be boring. And it might be difficult, but for reasons beyond sodium, it will be necessary.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

S is for Seedlings

I am determined to grow some herbs and vegetables, so a couple weekends ago I started some seeds. I am very optimistic about their chances this season. I am more knowledgeable than I was a year ago, and I can say with confidence that the Great Plant Massacre won't happen again.

Also this year, I'm getting involved in a CSA share program (Community Supported Agriculture). There are a number of farms around here that do it. Basically, a local farm delivers a certain share of its produce every week or every other week. It feels kind of expensive, because you do have to pay up front, but when I calculate it, it's not really much more than I would be spending at the grocery store. Plus, I get local farm-fresh produce from the end of April until November. There is more information about CSA programs here.

Any of you Chattanoogans interested in getting involved, check out the Rise N Shine Farm out of Calhoun. They'll be delivering to Greenlife Grocery, as well as a few other places in the area. And they're needing more people to sign up in order to meet their operating expenses. This is my first time trying a CSA program, so I can't speak from experience, but I'm really excited about it.

The Makeover: Chair Edition

Guess what I did this week? I finally reupholstered a chair!

I expected it would be a lot of work, and believe me, it was. It was my first chair -- my first upholstery, ever -- and it's got some glaring flaws if you know where to look. But I know most people won't notice. 

I've spent the past couple days gazing happily at the chair while nursing my sore arm (using a staple gun is a real workout). 

The fabric is by Jessica Jones, and it was on sale for $6.98 a yard (Remember me talking about the price of that beautiful Mod Green Pod fabric?). I spent a long time searching the internet and my local fabric store, filtering through swatches and samples looking for the perfect design. It had to match, it had to be a fun pattern but not too in-your-face, it had to match the feel and style of the chair, and it had to be affordable. That's not easy to find, and even when the fabric is in your hands, it's hard to tell if it will be a success ON the chair. 

But I am very happy with the results.

One more chair to go...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Books: The cover matters


I have seen these clothbound books before, but I didn't know who had designed them until just today (thanks, Robbie!). Her name is Coralie Bickford-Smith, and you can see her website here, which features her many beautiful designs.

The magic of these books is that even though I haven't read Crime and Punishment, and even though it always seemed so intimidating, you can bet I would read it if I had this copy.

I also have a special place in my heart for Gothic horror novels, so I want to collect all of these, in addition to the clothbounds.

All of these books are, I think, limited editions, and some of them are going to be hard to find. And collecting them will set me back a pretty big chunk of money. But I can dream anyway -- dream of collecting gorgeous bookcovers, as well as the novels inside them. I love a good classic, and I am an advocate for judging books by their covers. Art is important, and these books are art both inside and out.

Thank you, Coralie, for making classic books deliciously readable.