Monday, March 31, 2008

Book review - Amy Butler's Midwest Modern

On a soggy soggy Saturday the poor mailman braved the downpour to drop off yet another fun package at my door. This time it was the books I won, sent from Christina at Chronicle Books. I haven't perused the project books yet, In Stitches and the Stitch-it Kit. I was way too distracted by this beautiful book:

First of all, the cover doesn't really do it justice. It's a cute picture, but the overprint of Amy's pattern doesn't show up well and it really makes the whole thing very impressive. Plus it's a really thick book. Wasn't expecting that. From the heft alone it's worth the $35 cover price, but amazon has it super cheap so it's a steal!

Anyway, the inside is ridiculously inspiring. This isn't a project book, mind you. There are a few DIY instructions, but mostly it's a primer for your creative spirit. The book is chock full of pictures taken by Amy's husband David and features their home and studio, their garden, Amy's sketches and designs, and many items made up in her fabrics.

Written in first person, Amy shares her personal philosophies on design, and on life: "I think that in everything we do, in every style of life, there is art to be found. Not just in the studios of talented artists, but in the gardens, homes, relationships, spirits, voices, and fashions of people you see everyday."

I'd have to say that the most inspiring part of this book is how it shows the creation of a home aesthetic that is an ever changing reflection of the people inside and the world outside. If you hadn't picked up on the nature influences in Amy's design before, you'll be able to recognize it when you see her designs pictured alongside the plants, flowers, and objects that inspired them.
Apparently Amy also has an enviable knack for finding and incorporating vintage items into her home and design. I obviously had no idea where to look when I lived in Ohio! Amy includes some of her local sources...if anyone knows of cool places like those in Nashville I'd love to hear about them.
The photography is stunning, and each page is visually dense without being overwhelming . I spent most of the weekend pouring over this book, and I know I'll be back to it soon for more inspiration. I've already rearranged our mantle to make use of some cool vintage glass the boy had hidden away in a dusty corner!

Not wanting to step on any copyright toes, the above images are all from Amy Butler's website. I did want to share the one thing that I'm lusting after the most from the book, which happens to also be on the back cover:

LOVE! I'm on the hunt, armed with many, many ideas from this lovely book!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday distractions - Trouble

In honor of all the trouble that scooter-ing got me into, today I bring you fantastic internet timewasters almost guaranteed to get you in trouble. Hurrah!

Soundtrack for today: Ray LaMontagne - Trouble (Excellent CD-you should buy it!)

Mascot for today: Rascal the cat. A ridiculously cute furball who isn't all that bright, thus always getting into trouble but such a love muffin that you can't hate him for it. All together now: AWWWWW

Trouble 1: Cupcakes
I'm in love with cupcakes. Don't know why, they are just really cute. Like these, these, and these. I swear that I had the cupcake instead of wedding cake idea years ago, but now it has become almost commonplace and trite. I blame Martha Stewart for that one. But I still love them! This on the other hand, is kinda dumb. Isn't the point of a cupcake that you get your OWN little cake? I pity the person that tries to eat that one...

Trouble 2: Fabric
Um, I want it all. New Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, eco-esque Robert Kaufman, of course Harmony Art, and all the daydreams of my own head. I mean, of course the PERFECT fabric for what I've been dreaming up isn't available so I guess I'll have to make it myself. :) In my spare time, of course (ha!)

Trouble 3: Shoes.
It's sandal season! How much am I lusting over these, these, and these? Yeah. Not like those particular ones will ever be on my feet, but it's all good.

Trouble 4: Books
I like books that make me spend even more money on new hobbies. Like my cupcake obsession, embroidery, sewing, the cooking that I don't (read: can't) do, playing with illustrator, and abandoning science for crafting. I know, I know, I should go to the library, right? I totally do, but sometimes you just want to be able to drool over a book again and again. Although we are totally going to need more bookcases...

Happy Friday! Stay out of trouble! :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pretty things for you and me

Sorry about the short/lack of posts these past few days. My poor hands were all scraped up due to their unfortunate encounter with the pavement during my last human-powered transportation experiment. Long story short, klutzy gals like me shouldn't ride scooters (even if they are super fun)!

But now that I'm bandaged and on the mend I can show you this:

Mini Stuff Stasher

It's the Mini Stuff Stasher! A cute little version of the Tremendous Tote, complete with mini ric rac and a clip for hanging it inside the tote. Fun!

This is my prototype. I've got a few things to work out and then I'll have the pattern and bags available for you all. And the totes, you ask? Well...Linings on parade!
The tote are very temporarily on hold as I ran out of ric rac. OH NOOOOO! But I'll get more soon and then they will be out the door.

In the mean time, I'm putting all my other creations in my etsy shop on sale for 25% off. I know there is only one there now, but I have other bags that aren't listed. I'll get those up as soon as I can nag the boy into taking pics with his good camera. :) These ones are one of a kind, never to be made again, FYI!

Oh, I almost forgot. I am the lucky recipient of some pretty things from Amy Butler herself. I had forgotten that one of my prizes for the contest was Amy Butler fabric. She sent me a package with a very nice note, three yummy fabrics (love!), a set of her new note cards, and a bunch of her new patterns. I'm stoked about trying out the patterns and I'll be sure to review them here for you.

amy butler goodies
Have a lovely almost-Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More shameless self-promotion

Just a quick post right now (I have something else I want talk about, but that'll have to wait until later).

Mucho thanks to Rory for pointing out this:

Yup, on Amy Butler's site! Want to see it for yourself? Go to Amy Butler Design, click on NEW, then scroll down.

Toooo cool! :)

By the way, her new fabric is awesome, is it not? One day my whole house will be swathed in pretty things like that....

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shameless semi-self promotion

Thanks for all the lovely comments you all have been leaving! I'm super inspired to get the totes done, although the perfectionist in me is rearing its ugly head so it's taking longer than I anticipated. But good for you all, as they are going to be gorgeous (if I may say so myself!). The pattern is coming along too, and as always I have a billion more ideas and not enough time get them all done. Be prepared for some pretty cool things to come though, providing I can get it all to work out sometime before you-know-what freezes over!

So, in other news, today I'm going to take a little time to feature an artisan as thanks for getting me to where I am today. That's right, my darling Mom.

My Mom is a super talented quilter that started my love of sewing and has supported me in everything I do. She's got the entrepreneurial spirit herself, running her website Quilted to a Tea. Really, her work is amazing:

She's where I get the perfectionist tendencies, although I have no patience for sewing tiny squares together as perfectly as her!
This is one of my favorite quilts she made--the colors are just sooo pretty! And look at that workmanship:

Her next endeavor is children's tea, which will be coming soon as Toadstool Tea Parties. I'll take credit now for creating her cute banner, but that's as far as I go--the woman's got vision! :) I mean, can you get any cuter than this? And the price? Wow, what a value!

Also, some of her children's quilts are on etsy at Tea Gal Quilts. Love love love this one in particular:

So, while you are waiting for the Tremendous Totes, pop on over to Quilted to a Tea and see what my dear mother has whipped up lately. Tell your friends and help me say thanks to the woman who made it all possible! I love you Mom!

Friday, March 21, 2008

My new arrival!

I'd been patiently waiting for my new arrival after being told that it would come in a month. Imagine my surprise when I came home last night and found this on my porch:
Wheeeee! My new toy!

Of course I ripped right in and started playing with all the features. Had way too much fun trying out all the utility and decorative stitches that I don't really know what they are for but look pretty and will definitely show up in some art quilts or handbags.

I only officially sewed 1 real seam last night, but it was a good one! This machine sews soooooo nice compared to my entry level Singer. The knee lifter and needle up/down button alone have the potential to change my life! And the auto tie off/backstitch. And sewing without the pedal. Too cool, the pedal is on a different cord. You can completely unplug it and sew at a constant speed with the stop/start button. Not practical for some of the handbag seams, but will be awesome for decorative stitches and such.

Enough rambling about my baby, for now. I'm sure there will be more!

Here's an update on the Tremendous Totes:
I've been working on a "prototype" to make sure my pattern works, and that's almost done. I've even made some improvements from the winning bag! The rest of the original colorway are all cut out and I'm hoping to have those done in a week. That's a loose deadline, now, so don't get too excited.

The pattern is coming along nicely as well. I've got everything drawn out in Illustrator so it's going to look awesome and professional. Now I'm just double checking pattern markings and writing the directions. It's harder than I thought to describe some of the crazy stuff I did! This pattern is definitely going to end up as an intermediate level, mostly from all the pockets and extra details that make it so cool.

I'll be sewing all weekend, so check back for an update Monday!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The best oatmeal cookies EVER

I promised you a yummy post today, did I not? Well, here is, hands down, the best oatmeal cookie recipe in the world. The original recipe was published in Cooking Light, and I've made a few modifications of my own. Some days I consider them practically health food, but then I do love a good cookie...

3/4 cup all purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup dates, chopped


3/4 dried cranberries and 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup raisins and 1/3 cup cinnamon chips (Hershey's makes them)
your own combination of fruit, chips and/or nuts


Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Mix in chopped dates. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended. Add fruit and chips combo; beat at low speed just until blended.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; cool on pan 1 minute. Remove cookies from pan; cool completely on wire racks.

Mmmmm, cookies.....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Suffocating under "Stuff"

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but I'm a firm believer that we Americans are too consumed by our stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not living in a tree house with just one pair of pants and a sleeping bag! But sometimes less is actually more.
This website features a cool video that sums up a lot of the problems with our consumer life:

If you have 20 minutes, watch the video. It's really not painful, I swear!

Anyway, the point is that, as a culture, we're addicted to having a lot and having it cheap. It's an addiction. I'm surrounded by neuroscientists that study addiction and see some of the classic symptoms of addiction in myself every time I run into Target and find myself bombarded by their oh-so-cleaver use of cheap chic. But you have to ask, how is that possible?

I firmly believe that many of our problems (economic, environmental, international relations) can be traced back to this obsession with stuff. Lately I've made the promise to myself that I'm going to be smarter about my stuff. How, you ask? By BUYING LESS!

Sure, I post here about the cool green things out there. And it's sooo great to now have easy options. But have you seen how quickly big business has jumped on that band wagon? Why would you buy oodles of recycled paper towels when you could use a real towel? Or spend extra on eco-window cleaner when you could make your own for pennies? Or buy a cheap T-shirt just because it's made out of bamboo? What ever happened to reuse?

Before I climb off my soapbox, I want to make one last plea for another option--buying smarter. Yes, that top is cute, but how many nights out will it take before it looks like it's been run over by a truck? Or that cheap lamp that will disintegrate when an overzealous guest bumps into it? Or the boxes and boxes of cute things that you buy simple because they are on clearance and a steal? I'm guilty of all of them, but I've found since I've been conscious of these habits I've actually had MORE money each month to spend on non-essentials. Go figure.

Similarily, the handmade movement is awesome. Both the DIYers and the artisans that make things for those of us who can't knit, paint, metalwork, build furniture or scrapbook worth a darn (that'd be me...). The majority of these artisans are making high quality items that can be used for years, not for months. Plus you get the warm and fuzzy feeling that you are helping support someone's creative vision instead of lining some random manufacturer's pockets. Just before you buy handmade, make sure that you are getting a quality item that you love and will last. Some artisans, bless their hearts, try too hard to compete with the mass retailers and end up just hurting themselves in the process. Support those who charge a fair price and soon the rest will follow. Sure it's more expensive in the short term, but think of all the money you'll save by not buying in the future!

We all have to contribute to that golden arrow (did you watch the video?) whether we like it or not. But that spending power really is powerful; use it wisely!

I'm done babbling about all this now. I promise to post something really yummy tomorrow to make up for all this lecturing! :)


Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday moment of Zen

Monday's can be rough. Mine's been especially heinous. Let's escape to here, shall we?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lucky you!

It's official! Lucky blog readers, there will be more Tremendous Totes soon!

I went to the crazy quilt shop yesterday and am now the proud owner of what may be some of the last of this fabric:

Here's the deal. I have enough material to make 5 (maybe 6) of these bags. That's it. No mas. Eeek!

I'm currently cranking away on these bags, but I'm just one person and I do have a day job, so please be patient with me.

I will post here before I list the bag for sale in my etsy shop Halcyon Green so you'll have a chance to prepare for that. I'll keep you posted on cost and shipping once I figure that out. One thing at a time, people!

But wait, there's more!

I also scored this loveliness, and I'm super excited about it:Yes! Another colorway! The same AB print in a pink and green version. I'll be making the same bag in this as well, with green faux suede accent/straps (on the left of the pic) and pink piping/binding (a little bit is peaking out on the right of the pic).

Not wanting to get too crazy, I only have enough material to make 2 (maybe 3) of these bags. So, friends, please keep chatting up the comments so I stay motivated to sew and not worry that all my family will be getting the same bag for Christmas this year!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday distractions

I'm sure you don't need my help on the distracted part. Are you really accomplishing anything today? It's okay, I understand.

In case you are looking for some productive ways to use up all that distraction, here's a few that I'm perusing:

Today's theme: green (ish) sites

Harmony Art Harmony stole my secret dream of designing really cute environmentally friendly fabric that people can use to make really cute stuff. Sigh. In the mean time, I'll just drool over her designs.
Skin Deep cosmetics safety database. I've become obsessed with trying to dial down the crazy chemicals in my bathroom, and have been plugging all my products into this. Try searching for a certain product type then sorting by safety rating. Becomes almost scary when you look at the worst ratings.

Etsy Labs: How to make lip balm
I'm absolutely addicted to my chapstick, and shudder to think how much I've swallowed in my life. This is an interesting alternative to the petro based stuff.

Green Karat No, I'm not getting engaged Mom! But if I was, I'd want one of these rings. Recycled gold. Cultured diamonds. Support recycling and a revolution of the computing industry instead of mining, DeBeers, and African militias. Sounds like a much better proclamation of love to me! :)Green Sage Sustainable building supplies. I love the cabinet hardware. I'm eventually going to fully transform my craigslist desk into a beauty vanity, and really want these pulls:
Enjoy your distractions!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Keeping tabs on the goings on around here..

After yesterday's announcement (wheee!), I had a whole bunch of nice people stop by my little blog. Not that I mind! :) Good motivation to post more often, I suppose.

Anyway, as promised, I'm plugging away on getting a pattern made up for this bag. I'm also making a few finished bags as well. The main Amy Butler fabric is discontinued, so this is going to be a VERY limited edition bag!

So, to those who are craving one of these bags, I want to make sure you have access to the latest info on their progress. I'm practically a blog virgin, and for being on the cusp of the so-called blog generation, am woefully inadequate at this. But I've learned that the whole RSS/site feed thing is uber-important. Who would have guessed? I just tag my fav blogs in and visit daily. Apparently there is an easier way...


For those of you who like the easier way, I've added links for subscribing over in the side bar. I stuck with RSS, yahoo, google, and via email for now. Are there others that people use a lot?

For now, I'm hanging with my bazillion bookmarks. Maybe one day I'll join the site feed party!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


So today I'm plugging away at work, cursing my fickle experiments and wishing I was outside enjoying the taste of spring we're getting. I take a little brain break and pop over to the Amy Butler contest Flickr page. They promised to announce the contest winners today and I was curious which of the beautiful bags had one. And, well, see for yourself.

Seriously? Seriously!

I almost jumped out of my desk when I saw that! Are you kidding me? The winner!?!?! Wow...

Okay, I'm super excited and just totally flabbergasted. I mean, I love my bag, but who would have thought that Amy Butler would love it too. I mean, the woman's designs are just so cool. And the competition was so stiff. Did you see some of those? Awesome...

Yeah. A good day after all. Happy happy!


P.S. To add to the flattery, people have already been asking if I sell these. TOOO COOL! Anyway, if you are one of those, I don't have anything officially worked out yet. But when my new machine comes (!), I'll definitely be stitching up more of this design, probably by special order only. Contact me through the comments here if you have to have one (I won't publish your info) and we'll work out the details.