Monday, July 28, 2014

Thank you, Chicago Magazine

Somehow my Etsy shop, fivetrees, has made it into this year's Chicago Magazine Best of Chicago 2014 list. Crazy.

And flattering and so lovely.  I've had a year, to be sure, and I've made some big scary decisions, and so that this big happy unexpected honor has come along right now in the midst of all my other new happiness?  It's a generous and overwhelming gift.  (Total honesty? There was a night just recently when I was so excited I couldn't sleep)

So, thanks, Chicago Magazine!

Thanks, July


The summer seems to be rushing past and I wish that would stop.  But July has nevertheless been great.

Dan's been singing at Open Mic Nights at Fitzgerald's every Tuesday night.


We had our traditional July 4th backyard barbecue with Jess and Jett and a lovely addition of Tim and Lexi. The fireworks in our neighborhood are always crazy.  No reason to go anywhere to see fireworks, because our neighbors have all bought professional grade rockets.


We're officially online at the agency for birth moms to read our profile and consider us as possible parents for their babies AND we're officially certified by the State of Illinois to be a foster care family.

We've hung out with friends and each other and played Scrabble on the front porch and eaten good food and went to a Chirp Radio First Time and celebrated a few birthdays.


I saw this crazy enormous cicada on our fence post.  Before I used a flash on it, I thought it was a frog.


Dan and I saw Ted Leo and Aimee Mann perform at Millennium Park--which also means riding the train holding hands and lazing in the grass together and watching the sun set behind the Michigan Avenue skyline.


And the garden is doing really well.  I've canned 13 jars of dilly beans (beans and dill heads both from the back yard).  Tomatoes are beginning to ripen and we've been eating them with lunch and dinner. The squash plants haven't gotten quite as big I was hoping by this point, but I have been working hard on them--fertilizing and now spraying them with an anti-powdery mildew organic concoction--which feels good and satisfying.







I'm most excited about this teeny tiny watermelon.  When it's a bit bigger it will get a tiny sling to sit in and support it while it grows.


Life is slow and lovely. I'm working, but also living and taking big, deep, long, satisfying breaths and I feel lucky lucky lucky.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What a Difference a Month Makes

This year has been a funny year for gardening. The winter was brutal and so some perennials died back a bit. We also had a super cool spring and so we got started a bit late on planting the veg.

Just a bit over a month ago, this is what our newly planted vegetable garden looked like:
 

And as of a few days ago, after a serious weeding, it looked like this:


There are teeny tomatoes on all of the tomato plants.  Tiny cucumbers are growing. I have already made one small lunch batch of pesto from backyard basil and have used dill in a salad made with farmer's market potatoes.  It's so great to be able to walk out to the backyard at dinner time to "shop" for ingredients we need.

Gardening is like magic.  I mean, it's hard work, I guess.  But after such a miserable winter, it's hard to believe that all of this green and growing and bounty will return.  And that it grows like weeds on top of that?  It makes me feel lucky and it makes me feel proud that we have been working this ground for seven years now, creating a bed that supports all of this life and food production.

As proof of that. . . as I was weeding the whole garden on Sunday, I thought, "Why don't we use gardening cloth to keep these weeds down?"  But once I was done weeding and could see the darkness and loamy-ness of the soil, I thought, "We worked hard to make that soil so rich and pretty.  I'm not covering that up."  I am a silly and vain gardener as it turns out.

Plus, new for 2014! Dan has made me three trellises for container gardening: 

 

Our veg plot is so small, that it's hard to give up space to large trailing plants like watermelon or winter squash.  So, this year, I'm growing those and summer squash in containers with the hopes of growing them vertically and training a number of them up on to the trellises.  It's just a side bonus that they will also cover up our boring gray garage for a few months.


I definitely got a late start on these, but squash grow so quickly that I'm not worried.  And those containers are jam-packed with organic potting soil and manure.  By next month, I expect them to all be two to three feet up the trellises. And I have dreams of late summer watermelon and winter squash dotting the trellis in tiny support hammocks.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nesting

So, on Thursday we have our first meeting with the adoption agency post-home study. Which means we're clicking up the big roller coaster hill towards finally going live with our birth mother letter and producing birth mother books so that potential birth mothers can find us and decide whether they might be interested in placing their babies with us.

Ridiculously exciting.  As soon as our profile is up online, I will share it with all of you, and maybe, if you like me and the Daniel, you could pass it along?  We're looking to adopt from Illinois or Indiana.

Anyhoo, we've done some work and searched our hearts and thought deeply about why we want a child and why each other would be a good parent, and it's been fun.  But it's also felt like super active waiting.  And, I think it's fair to say that we're ready to get past that and down to the business of knowing a birth mother/family and raising a baby. But there doesn't seem to be a way to rush this process, so my solution to help allay the anxiousness?  Nesting.

My first completed project is burp cloths. Six, so far, though if I can find another towel that we care little about, that number will likely double.  Here's the first batch:


Always good to have a fabric stash hanging around when you want to do an impromptu project to keep you from obsessively reading the 500th online article about cotton diapering.

I am also still underway working on stripping and repainting a piece of furniture for the baby's room.  While on a family walk, we found the bottom half of a built-in hutch and brought it home.  It will be a perfect dresser for baby once done.  But it's been a total monster to strip--layers and layers and layers of paint and one final stubborn heavy coat of shellac. The stripping is pretty much done.  Now I need to clean it with mineral spirits, sand it, prime it and then paint and stain away.
In the mail is coming a bunch of cotton gauze for swaddling blankets and yards of cute flannel for receiving blankets.  I have always disliked flannel.  The patterns are substantially awful--cutesie, terrible pastel colors, ugly, ugly, ugly--but thanks to Fabric.com, I have found great flannel and I am inordinately excited.  Look at some of these patterns:

The last two are so cute, I sort of want to frame them and keep them forever and ever and ever. Good to know that flannel with good design exists out there. . .

Anyhoo, all of this making and doing to keep the waiting feel like prep time instead of just waiting.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Holy Cow.

I've had an iris about ready to bloom for a week.  Last fall, I hurriedly ordered and then planted a bunch of bulbs and rhizomes last and then promptly forgot what any of them were.  And I'm going out of town tomorrow and thought I would miss this guy blooming before I went.

But, at last.  And it was worth the wait.



The inside is just as pretty.  It looks like a stormy sunrise... *sigh.

Monday, May 26, 2014

What if your aesthetic doesn't match the actual work you produce?

So, I'm having sort of a dilemma right now.  It's not keeping me up nights, but it's on my mind a lot.

I have a bunch of time to be creative right now, and I don't want to squander it.  I'm having loads and loads of ideas--so many that I have to jot them down the moment I have them so that I don't lose them in the onslaught of more ideas.  Some of those are gardening ideas.  A bunch are creative nursery ideas (but if I work on those now, will I jinx the process?  If we're totally unprepared will we get a baby really quickly?). But a bunch are also illustrations and book ideas and toys and pillows.

My desk--that I'm trying to keep so so so clean--keeps getting littered with little scraps of paper with ideas on them.  It's great!  And a little overwhelming.

Here's the actual dilemma, though.  My aesthetic is really pared down, the simplest structure and line work as possible--just enough detail that some other person can understand the thing I have made.  My toys have eyes, but never mouths. I like big color fields.  My favorite color is all greys but the lightest versions that slip into pastels.  I hate pastels. I love all things natural as design elements, but also as textures (don't try to sneak polyester or rayon or Splenda or margarine on me.  I can always tell).  I believe that children's toys should appeal to them, but also to the adult that they will become, and I think they should fit into the decor of their family's home--wood blocks, naturally colored dolls.  And everything I make should be enduring.  It's construction and appeal should last.

But sometimes when I sit down to draw, it all gets really complicated or the colors are whacky.  I start with the idea that I am going to follow the things inside of me that define how I judge taste and the objects I allow in my house, and 20 minutes later, I've not followed any of those rules.  What's up with that?
These are slices of a series of heads I have created.  What?  I like them, but how do they get me to where I actually want to go? I don't have this problem with the dolls I make.  I buy yarn and fabric in colors that appeal to me.  But something about drawing digitally. . . there are so many options and cool things to play with.

So, help me/us out.  How do you create within the bounds of your aesthetic?  Does it just happen naturally or do you have to make a conscious effort to constrain yourself?  Where do our aesthetics even come from?  And do you think we can live two aesthetics--the aesthetic of what we create and the aesthetic of what we consume?

And maybe most importantly, is it important to have one strong look and feel for your work?  
 
I struggle with that. I love that when I see illustrations by Mercer Mayer that I can always recognize them.  But I also think it's pretty cool that there are Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Oak Park that you would never recognize as his designs if they weren't on the registry.

What if you want to try out loads of different "looks and feels" in your art work?  Is that a lack of commitment? Or is that unfettered creativity?  I don't know.

I'm not sure I can only still be having this conversation with myself. . . Thanks in advance for chiming in!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What's Happening?

I am approaching two months out of my job of 10 years.  Two months of standing outside a career and a regular decent paycheck and the ability to buy a lot of things or expensive dinners.  It's disconcerting and sometimes it makes me feel uneasy or it makes me worry a little about the future and what that will hold for me when I figure things out.  That's the tough stuff, but there's good stuff, too.

I'm no longer afraid or anxious or nervous. When I smile now, I can literally feel how my face lights up and how that smile is a smile inside and out.  I don't use an alarm clock to wake up any more, and oddly enough, I wake up earlier and want to get out of bed and start the day. I catch myself singing and or dancing while cooking or gardening or cleaning.  I think about things really deeply and fully.  I see details of the world around me that I haven't bothered to notice (a completely shiny silver church steeple in Oak Park.  I looked it up thinking that the shiny-ness was new.  Nope.  I was just so bound up I didn't notice giant 20 feet tall shiny things in a sky that I see weekly). I feel peaceful inside.  I am truly best friends with my dog for maybe the first time in his life.  Dan has a good wife in me now and that makes me infinitely happy and content.

Also, and we'll see if this lasts, I don't really want to buy things. Maybe that's liking kicking coffee or sugar? You just have to go cold turkey, get over the withdrawal, and then you look around and wonder how you accumulated all of the stuff you already have.  And instead of wanting to buy things, suddenly you want to streamline and get rid of things and whittle your life down to just the best bare essentials, making room for thinking and loving and people instead of junk. . .

My friend Slava, who has recently moved her entire life from Chicago to Long Island really abruptly for a new job, has put all of her stuff in storage in Brooklyn and is in temporary digs in Long Island essentially living out of three suitcases.  We talked about this recently, her so far away on the phone in this new life, me in a much different life than when we hugged goodbye in February.  And at some point our conversation turned to the things we owned and why.  She has discovered that all she really needs is the stuff in her three bags and that she's already starting--in just three months--to forget what's in her storage unit.  She and I both were marveling at the surprising sense of freedom that comes from not being burdened by so many things.

We'll see if this feeling lasts.  But I like it.

Also, this morning, I watched this great short documentary about fashion and consumption and whether our level of consumption of clothing is sustainable (spoiler: it's totally not) and then following a few designers around who are trying to investigate ways to make fashion better/more energy efficient/more sustainable and it's fascinating:


I think I aspire to buying fewer things that are of higher quality that will last and last and last, and this documentary definitely is inspirational in that regard.