27 May 2011

House Finch

This guy and his family have taken up residence in my yard.  Him and his partner have built a nest in the ivy near the gutter above our garage door and the mama has already laid her eggs.  When we are in the backyard he floats around calling endlessly.  I'm not sure if he is mad that we are in his yard or if he generally likes our company.  He is a brave little soul though.  As our cats meander around he boldly sits on the fence taunting them.  In all honesty, I have lazy cats and I'm sure he is pretty safe.

Out of the pair, he is the prettiest.  Why is this in birds?  Peacocks, mallard ducks, hummingbirds: all the males have colorful feathers, while the females are mostly shades of brown.  This seems unfair in some way. 

Regardless, I enjoy seeing them in the yard and hope that these new neighbors will stick around. 

I'm looking forward to a long holiday weekend.  The rest is much needed.  I plan on enjoying a good book, the lake, and a little nature. 

Have a great weekend!

26 May 2011

Another Year Older

Today is my birthday.  I'm not particularly fond of my birthday and typically the day passes with very little mention.  I suppose it's being the center of attention, or the compliments and gifts that just make me uneasy.  The past few years have been different though and I'm feeling like celebrating this year.  I might even make myself my favorite birthday cake, German Chocolate.  I haven't made one in years. 

I received an early gift* this year from my friend Lauren and I couldn't help but show it to you because I'm so excited about it. 
I am a journaler.  Have I mentioned this before?  I still have my childhood diaries in box somewhere that had a lock and key.  (The cool thing to do in the 80's was to wear your diary key around your neck.  Well, at least I thought it was cool.)  So when Lauren's box arrived and I opened it to find this 5 year question journal I was ecstatic.  Even though I received this gift last week I've been saving it for today.  I will make my first entry tonight! 
The second gem was this beautiful little vase.  Lauren has sat in my backyard and knows how much I love bringing flowers in the house.  This vase will be in my studio all summer long filled with daisies, pin cushions, roses, gomphrera...  I'm a very lucky girl.  Thank you Lauren!

A special little person in my life loves to hear stories and she is always asking us to tell her stories of when we were little.  I posted about one of my childhood birthday parties over here and I have been asked twice to tell it to her again so I thought I would relink the story with you to take you back to your own birthday parties. 
Here is to another year! 

*book and vase from Anthropologie

25 May 2011

Backyard Garden: Salad Bowl

This is the third round of leaf lettuce I've harvested from the garden.  I planted a variety: prizeleaf, royal oak leaf, salad bowl, ashley and black seeded simpson.  All from Burpee.  Every type has done very well.  Lettuce is an early crop for us.  It doesn't fair well in the Texas heat, and I'll miss it in the summer months. 

I spaced out the plantings to optimize the harvest.  I planted three squares of lettuce the last weekend in March and planted two more squares a couple of weeks later.  Now that I've gotten all that I can get from the first planting, the second planting is ready to be harvested.  This method ensures that I have lettuce longer. 

In order for your lettuce to grow back when it comes time to harvest, cut all the leaves around the outside of the plant and leave the center stalk.  I use a pair of scissors to do the cutting.  The leaves will grow back 2-4 more times.

While I do eat a lot of salads there are other ways to use these greens. 
  • Make a frittata with greens on top covered in vinaigrette dressing.  Barbara Kingsolver has a great recipe from her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
  • Add it to a pimento cheese sandwich made with homemade bread.  I did this for my mom and she loved it.
  • Add it to omelets like you would spinach.
Of course if you do love a good salad there is nothing like adding homemade dressing to give it a little zest without weighing it down with oily, processed dressings. 

Homemade Vinaigrette
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
It's important to use the best possible, quality ingredients.  Cheap olive oil will not taste good on your home grown lettuce.  Put all the ingredients in a small jelly jar, and shake.


My first planting of carrots will soon be ready to harvest as well. I'm looking forward to that.

What is coming out of your garden?

23 May 2011

Berry Bars

Raspberry Bars
I had a small dinner party this weekend and I wanted to make something tasty and in season.  After reading the May issue of Better Homes & Gardens I knew these bars would make the perfect dessert.  I love blackberries and in Texas we have an abundance of them so I substituted the raspberries and jam.  Jump over here to get the recipe.

The shortbread crust was crumbly and just the right amount of sweetness, and the custard had a fresh, lemon taste that complimented the berries.  It was very difficult not to eat the entire contents of the pan before the guests arrived. 
In my kitchen we have a "would you make this again" rating.  If the recipe gets a yes it goes in the keep pile.  If it's a no, it gets discarded.  The blackberry bars will definitely be made again. 

I enjoyed baking this weekend and I think I'll start making at least one new recipe a month.  This is a lofty goal, but may be interesting. 

If you have a chance to make these bars let me know what you think. 

image: Better Homes and Gardens

20 May 2011

Metaphorically Speaking

When I first glanced at this quote I thought it was perfect for a photo of flowers.  It wasn't given much thought.  Today it seems to have taken on a new meaning as a metaphor for my life.  Lately I've felt like I'm just going through the motions of life and not really paying attention.  Well, maybe I'm paying attention, I'm just not trying.  Whatever it is, I feel like a faded flower slowly wilting away.  This is way more personal than you're used to on this blog, but maybe if I get it out of my system the sun will shine.  In a recent class I took on blogging there was a lesson about your life being the inspiration for your blog.  I'm operating the other way around.  It feels a lot like finding my way in the dark, unsure of where to go.  Any advice? 

On another note, I have a lot on my to-do list this weekend with the biggest event being the Wildflower festival.  Rumor has it there will be a Journey tribute band.  It should be interesting.  What are your plans?

18 May 2011

Backyard Garden: Babies

pepper  *  pea  *  tomato

Other than watering I haven't touched the garden much since I planted.  In fact I haven't given it much attention at all so I was surprised to see the these babies growing. I was harvesting my second round of lettuce when I spotted the pepper.  A garden really doesn't have to be work.

It makes me all the more thankful for planting an SFG this year.  Read more about it here and here

16 May 2011

Road Trip: East Texas

We took a short road trip out to Texarkana this weekend for business.  We got off the beaten path and meandered our way through small towns dotting the map.  The wildflowers were blooming like crazy.  Why I didn't stop to take a picture of them makes me crazy.  They were everywhere. 

One of the neatest sights were the beekeepers out in the fields that were harvesting honey.  This is a trade I would like to learn one day.   

A sleepy town named after the sulphur infused springs in the area was our first stop.  We've passed through before and found a great quilt in an antique store.  There were not a lot of treasures this round except for a small tray for the guest bathroom, and of course a few McCoy pieces to add to the growing collection.

Next stop was Mount Vernon.  Just at the edge of the city square you'll find this old factory sitting vacant.  Over at the Our Place cafe it is rumored that it used to be a glove plant.  Whatever it was, I can't find any history on it.  Windows cover each side as well as a row of them in the roof line.  It would have been a great place to work. Now it stands in disrepair as the ivy takes over.  Note the restoration happening on the clock tower of the court house in the background. 

image via Some Old Guy

image via Some Old Guy
 We rolled into Texarkana late afternoon.  Out near the interstate the city is thriving with new builds everywhere.  Downtown Texarkana is another story.  Other than a small music festival going on and a few bars, there was no activity.  Almost all of the buildings have been abandoned and boarded up.  It was a sad sight to see.  The most interesting building is the one pictured above, Hotel Grim.  The name suits its character today.  In the thirties it was the place to be.  Buildings like this always make me wish I could travel back in time to see them in their glory.

Before the fireworks show we were attending we took a drive over into the Arkansas countryside.  It's beautiful and abundant with rolling hills and evergreen trees.  We took a backwoods, county road that lead us to a village called Genoa.  It was so heavily wooded with dead-end roads branching in all directions I was afraid we weren't going to make it out of the woods.  For some reason we got the case of the giggles and stopped a dog on the side of the road to ask him, "Genoa the way to go?" 

We made it to the fireworks show on time and saw some spectacular views.  I was playing with the settings on my camera and took a bunch of shots of the fireworks.  This is one of my favorites because it looks like a leaf.  

There is no doubt a change has taken place in American communities and it was visible this weekend.  I suppose it's a sign of the times and what we see today is evidence that change is inevitable.  What we saw were businesses shut down, boarded up and replaced by dollar stores, Wal-Mart, and McDonald's.  Occasionally, we come into a place that is still hanging on, even if by a thread, where people still talk to their neighbor's and take pride in where they live.  We savour those places and return when we can. 

As always, I'm glad to be home, but the weekend was a great reminder of how important it is to see the country for what it was before it's too late.  

13 May 2011


I took the above photo through my Kodak Duaflex camera.  I learned this technique from Andrea at Hula Seventy.  I took her Through the Viewfinder class at Squam and had so much fun with it.  I love the imperfections: the dust on the glass, the scratched lens, and other various particles.  The process requires you to slow down and really take in what is around you.  This week has been much the same type of process.  Perhaps because my schedule had a chance to breathe.  The weekend is here and I plan to enjoy every minute before life picks back up again next week. 

I'll leave you with some recent finds so you can reflect and enjoy your weekend as well. 

Secret Gardens over at The Button Owl
Great skirt makeover by Kelly over at Make Grow Gather
Great Egg Salad recipe from Molly at Orangette.
Cut Flowers from Tina at the Tip Junkie

11 May 2011

Birthday Present

I have an obsession with handbags.  I don't know what it is about them that fascinates me, but I could carry a new one every day.  I'm not a fashionista.  My favorite outfit is a pair of jeans, t-shirt, and sandals.  My hair is thrown into a pony-tail most of the time, and make-up, well, take it or leave it.  So the appeal for a trendy handbag seems a little out of character.  I suppose that's what makes me so quirky. 

Unfortunately the handbags I like are generally over my budget and not so green friendly.  Other than Matt & Nat I have yet to find a "green handbag" that has a great design.  (Please link to one in the comments if know of any.)  Therefore, I like to do a lot of window shopping.  Lately I've been posting my favorites on Pinterest.  I discovered the wonderful world of Pinterest through Mrs. French over at  Blissful Blog.

My birthday is right around the corner and I'm thinking I might splurge and get a new handbag.  Above are some of my recent favorites.  I'm really diggin' geometric patterns and colors this spring. 

What are some of your favorites?

09 May 2011

Remove the Dead Tree

Our house, in the middle of the street...

We have become the delinquents in the neighborhood but not because our house is bright blue, or there is a couch on the porch. No, none of those things. Our crime is unruly plants and a whirligig. We have strict enforcement around here when it comes to how one's house and yard should look. The neighborhood feels so methodical and antiseptic. If you bend the rules, you'll get a "friendly reminder" to correct it before they fine you the price of your car. I realize that I did choose this. Sharing your life with someone that has the better house means choosing the better house. It is what it is for now.

moon flower
If you drive down our alley you would be able to pick out our house. The strip of grass behind the fence has been replaced with honeysuckle, rose bushes, mint, and sedum. Ivy is slowly creeping up the brick walls, and purple jew, more mint and sedum are making their way along the side of the house. The whirligig aimlessly twirls with the breeze like a beacon for all things free. In the front you'll find a large moon flower that has been removed a number of times, but continues to pop back out every spring. It has the most beautiful, fragrant flowers that only bloom at night. And then there is the burr oak tree. The late bloomer. The cause of a recent notice.

The funny thing about this notice is that the tree is not dead.  An oversight, indeed.  It appeared dead, but it was simply waiting for the right time to bloom. And alas, two days after the notice, all the dead leaves were gone and it was budding.

Our yard is not a mess. Any other place, it would be normal. We keep our grass cut and the weeds gone. We just like our flower beds to look a little more unruly. I like to call it natural.  My home, with it's colorful and lively flora, is my everyday oasis and I just love it, dead tree or not.

06 May 2011

Artist Spotlight: Black & Bluebird

While visiting Austin a few weeks ago, I purchased some amazing jewlery from Gretchen at Black & Bluebird Studios.  All of the pieces she had on display held amazing detail.  I wanted one of everything!  I was so inspired by her work I caught up with her and Warren, her boyfriend and partner, about their process.  Please welcome Black and Bluebird Studios. 

i26:  How did you and Warren get started making jewelry?

B&BB:  Warren and I both went to college at Kent State University where we received BA's in fine art.  I was doing mostly textile art pieces for a number of years and was pretty successful, doing several showings in fine art galleries around Cleveland and north east Ohio.  Warren was doing mostly painting and also had several gallery showings around Ohio. We both moved to Austin about three years ago and prior to that I began experimenting with making necklaces.  Upon moving to Austin I began making jewelry full time developing my upcycled/recycled/vintage/re-purposed style that now is the signature of Black & Bluebird Studios.  I was able to teach Warren the jewelry making craft and aesthetic that I was interested in. Now we are constantly developing new styles and signature design with the craftsmanship and process pretty well established.

How would you describe your work?

Black & Bluebird pieces are of a upcycled/recycled/vintage/re-purposed style that has been developed over several years.  We like to find items that are interesting and usually wouldn't be used in jewelry making: bullet casings, miniature locks, tiny vials, and other things that make other jewelry designers say "why didn't I think of that?"

What and who inspires you?

We both find a lot of inspiration from our previous experience working in various mediums. After studying sculpture, textiles, fine art for so many years, these experiences make you a stronger overall artist.  Somehow these experiences seem to make you a stronger jewelry maker and also add to the creativity and imagination needed to make pieces that are different than what most jewelers make.  We both also love all kinds of music and find listening to great tunes all of the time works as a wonderful lubricant for creativity and innovation.

Do you have a message to share with others about your work?

We are both creative and artistic souls we do not create just to create, we create because there is something inside of us pushing us to create new and amazing art.  Follow us on our journey we have only just begun.

Where can my readers find you?

Of course we can be found online. We do all of own website design and development in house, this gives us complete control over our web presence.  We can take the time needed to make a really cool website that is fun and funky,and really different than what most other jewelers have online.  We also have our vending booth that we set up regularly at consistent locations in Austin.  Our booth is located in the lot north of Vespaio restaurant.   Vespaio is located at 1610 S. Congress st., Austin, TX, 78704.  We and many other interesting artisans are set up every Saturday, 10:00am to 7:00pm, weather permitting.  Sundays we can be found at Gibson St. Artists Market, located at Gibson St. and S. Congress.  This is another great artists market showcasing all handmade goods from Austin area artists.  We can be found from 11:00am till' 5:00pm every Sunday, weather permitting.  We also do other events locally and out of state.  Most recently we participated in The Makers Faire in Queens, NY and also The 25th Annual Festival International de Louisianne, in Lafayette, LA.

What is your unrelenting passion?

Our unrelenting passion is to be able to continue working at what we love to do, making jewelry and art.  It is a great privilege to make your career as artists and this is something we never take for granted.  The desire to continue along this career path is enough to ignite the passion needed to continue innovating new pieces and keeping 'fresh'.


Thank you Gretchen and Warren for sharing your work with us! 

Their website is truly fantastic.  Even if you don't have the pleasure of visiting them at a market, you can still purchase items through their online shop. 

all images from Gretchen

05 May 2011

It's been quiet around here.  Between my mom's visit, a wedding, and a funeral, posting got shoved to the bottom of the list.  Now I'm trying to figure out how to refill my well of energy and inspiration.  I'm trying to be gentle and allow things to unfold as they should, but it's not always easy.  My emotions are waving in all sorts of directions.  I'm hoping to go for a hike this weekend.  Surely a little nature therapy will do the trick. 

On a lighter note, I'm very excited to have an artist spotlight soon.  For a hint of who it might be, see this post.

Happy Thursday.