Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Garden inspiration

My favorite gardens feel natural and wild, filled with lush greenery, moss, aged and weathered stones, and have little to mow.


and more, on Pintrest

on ice

We are having a couple of days of thunderstorms so are staying in and snuggling on the sofa. This dog is super high strung but every so often she lets herself chill.  

Digging a hole 2.0

We dug up the remainder of the bricks and underneath found what is most likely an old well that had been filled in and used as a rubbish dump. The curved blocks are granite and would be quite attractive in the yard. I'm tempted to keep digging, but we are preparing to leave soon for a lengthy summer adventure and it would be unwise to leave an unattended, gaping hole. For now we will fill it in and wait for the right time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Digging a hole

We tried to garden today, just Olive and I. I haven’t gardened in a few years and need to re-assert dominance over the invasive plants currently having a party in the back yard.  Gardening as someone with SLE has a couple of challenges. First, we are all basically allergic to sun exposure.  That means wearing 100 SPF, long sleeves and big floppy hats. It also helps to work in the early morning or late afternoon, to avoid the strongest rays.  The other challenge is stamina so projects need to broken into 1hour pieces. 

This short work window means cutting the project list to the most essential, so here are my top 3:

  • Build stone or brick pathways and a patio area large enough to set out the Brown Jordan furniture inherited when my parents moved.
  •  Plant lots of native plants and flowers to create a wild meadow look—and minimize the need to mow.
  • Put out containers to grow some veggies. I’m hoping I can move them with the sun and maybe have tomatoes by late summer.

We started to dig a deep hole in order to bury the huge pile of dandelion carcasses pulled up this week.  The plan was to bury them too deep to germinate and then to transplant day lilies on top of that mess, because daylilies seem be able to grow anywhere. But around here, plans have a way of morphing into never ending projects. I picked a spot where the leaves have piled up and nothing seems to grow there but bumblebees and nightshade.  Digging is Olive’s favorite sport. If you could see her face you would see she is grinning gleefully.

Just a few shovelfuls and we hit brick.  This is the second house I’ve lived where a previous owner has buried bricks in the yard. I suspect our missing chimneys are buried out here somewhere and thought I had found part of one but these aren’t chimney bricks, plus they’re stacked five high, and form a circle.

Aren't they lovely? I wonder how many other people have a patio buried in their yard?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I don’t write about my personal style, because I don’t have any. Wait, someone who loves clothing as much as I surely must put time and effort into dressing to thrill, right? No. In fact getting dressed is such a challenge I once showed up for work wearing two different shoes. My first job in sales was at Bonwit Teller and the store would organize fashion shows to demonstrate how we should dress to properly represent the Bonwit image. These shows were like a live “Glamour Do” and “Glamour Don’t” page with both girls on the cat walk at the same time. Sort of like Goofus and Gallant of the runway. The employees were the models and once I was asked to participate. I was picked to wear a nice pastel skirt suit, and my “don’t” counterpart wore one of my typical outfits—including a pair of self made oversized earrings they had borrowed from me, and that I considered part of my ‘look’.What? You thought girl bullying stopped at graduation? You thought wrong.

I thought there was something wrong with me, until I found this post on Fashion Incubator.

You don’t know this yet so I may as well tell you; I don’t like clothes. For the most part. Actually, I don’t like going through the bother of acquiring them via shopping or sewing. I’d rather prefer that they grew on bushes and one could snag what’s needed in passing. The clothing I like best are items that miraculously appear. A friend mailed me a pair of cover-alls that he found in his dumpster and I wore them for years. Anyway, while my views are extreme, you’ll find that garment industry people largely do not care about clothes. We are the first to cheerfully agree that we are the worst dressers. There is a reason (!) that some design houses semi-dictate the wearing of either all white or all black. It’s because the designer knows we’re such losers taste-wise, that we need some sort of fashion guidance. I swear. All of the garment industry people are laughing themselves sick at this point because they can’t believe I had the nerve to say that. I wish you could hear them.

I read this, laughed out loud, and felt a bit less like a misfit. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

The vortex:

 The search function in Ancestry.com is a quick way to save source citations to your tree, but the system is not designed for quick and easy browsing, or in-depth reading of histories. Plus, the search results are often hit and miss. Luckily, many of the databases on Ancestry are compiled using books available in the public domain and can be found online.  One of my favorite places to find research materials is the internet archive: Archive.org

I usually end up at the Archive after getting frustrated with the slow loading images on Ancestry, so I look first for the specific title in the texts section.  That way I can search the document text, or download a copy to browse through later. I also browse other books with the same subject, author or publisher, just in case. I also recommend searching various related key words, and exploring titles by subject. Searches for the state and county are a good place to start. If that brings too many results, add the name of the town. If your ancestor was involved in one of the early wars, there are many books of muster rolls, regimental histories, and even books of miscellaneous records and memos.  Other records can be found in probate records, abstracts of wills, registers of birth, and passenger lists. All available on the Archive.

At this point you may realize you have 20 tabs open and you've downloaded 4 gigabytes of DAR journals.You're hooked. Since your day is already shot you may as well give up any pretense of work and dive into the Military service records, and pension applications. All 5269 books of them.  And stop by the moving images section to watch some early health or marketing films, Lego stop motion movies, even the first kiss ever filmed. Or stream the ever popular Grateful Dead bootleg concert recordings. Whatever piques your interest, there will be something for you to enjoy. Best of all, the site is free, and more stuff is constantly being added, so there is always something new to read or look at. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Saxie Pike's Quickstep

This is a photo of Francis Harvey Pike, fondly called "Saxie". He is the white haired man seated on the left. He was over 6 ft. tall and made quite an imposing figure with his silver tipped staff and tall bearskin drum major hat. He is my 3rd Great Grandfather and his story deserves more time than I have today, but I wanted to share the photo. BTW: I usually link to image sources, but can no longer find where this came from. If you know, please share.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The long and winding road

Of the things I am good at, staying on task for extended periods of time is not one of them. I  often amaze even myself at how far astray my focus can veer when a newer, shinier distraction is dangled in front of me.

Like this email:

I just found a scrap of paper from my trip to Johnstown 2 yrs. ago. I was looking for an ancestor on the Davis side. I have pretty good records up to this particular Davis. He was Sergeant Isaac Davis, enlisted 1778 as a private in Capt. Veeder's Company, Col. Visscher Regiment. He was born in 1752 and his wife was Sarah Smith. He is listed in Vol. 40 Page 407 of the Muster & Payroll of Revolutionary War 1775-1783. Vol for 1914-15 of Collections of NY Historical Society(2V) 494. I wish I had kept better notes and I may have but just haven't found them yet. Anyway, this is the ancestor that I would like to pursue for DAR because he would go up to my Gr.-Grand Erastus Corning Davis. I'd like that direct line. Any ideas how to do it? My father, Aunt Grace and Aunt Helen all searched for him and I believe what I found is the only record of his that we know about. I have records of his son? Matthew and then straight to Erastus C.


What followed was a bit over a year, off and on, spent learning about genealogical research. Because who is going to say "no" to their mom?  I put up a tree on ancestry.com and we met a new distant cousin who is also researching the Davis family and found we have a lot in common—right back to our first U.S. ancestor, and his DNA. Every once in a while I would find a small bit of new information and put it into the puzzle, but still couldn’t find any documentation that Matthew was the son of Isaac. And no other family tree on the internet has a Matthew in this family. I know because I looked at all of them.

Did you know that Ancestry.com is like Facebook on crack for old people?  You think you’re just going to click one leaf then stop, but before you know it, you haven’t showered in a week and your kid is eating fried bread for every meal because you're too hopped up on the thrill of deciphering Muster Rolls to grocery shop or cook.

Now that I’m fairly well versed on how to dig up records, and find primary sources for US ancestors, I’ve adopted the title of Accidental Genealogist.  And because I do this as a hobby, and I’m a Yankee at heart, I’ll be sure to share all the good places to find records for free as I document the search for the elusive Matthew Oliver Davis. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Olive the Wonder Dog

It's 81° today. 81° in Maine. In March. We are usually  under two feet of snow and waiting for the next blast, but the past few weeks have been warm. It was so warm I decided to take Olive down to some fields behind the house to help her get the spring wiggles out. The sun was bright, the peepers were noisy and it was just about perfect. Except, I forgot about the "crick".

Saturday, February 18, 2012


So, the workroom makeover is in full swing. I could tell you that I forgot to take “before” shots, but I’d be lying. I took them, but all they show are my piles of crap covering every horizontal surface so I’m not going to post any yet. Maybe after the room is done and I can counter with pictures that show I am not a complete slob.

Besides the workroom, I’ve also been rearranging my bedroom. By “rearranging” I mean: dismantling my closet entirely, setting up my antique brass bed,

 deciding (much to my daughter’s delight) the bed was too high (my nightstand needed a booster seat);

 and too “girly” (it is, and yes, the room is really that purple. It used to have dinosaurs on the walls too.)

and moving it into her room, setting up a will-do-for-now bed from the thrift store, building a new garment rack from iron pipe to replace the dismantled closet, and then deciding to completely reverse the layout of the room, and decorate it like the set from a Chanel ad. To accomplish that last part means finishing the demo of a wall-to-nowhere that has been waiting to come down for about 5 years, and also means some drywall repair.  At this point I decided the bedroom flip would have to wait until I was finished with the workroom. 

And here is a DIY from my dad: He didn't have enough room to store his extra art work in the garage of their new condo, so he hung everything. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A day in the life

In my quest to regain control over the workday, I decided to figure out how I spend the time. I find making a weekly schedule is helpful. I used to draw them out on legal pads, but it’s easier to make them in Excel so my inner nerd can play with the stats.

I made this at the end of summer and gave a copy to each member of the family. The goal was to illustrate when I was working, and implied they should not call or drop in during those hours unless there was a fire or someone was bleeding. It was a clear enough schedule and everyone but the dog should have been able to follow it. It worked for a few weeks and then it was back to the old habits-- all except the dog, who has stayed on her schedule and allows me to work without interruption. She’s earned a raise.
And what would a spreadsheet be without a pie chart?

Looks quite reasonable and productive. If only we could stick to it. 

Since this chart is now mostly fantasy, I’ve made a new, realistic, version:
And pie chart:

In an effort to present a more professional face, I've renamed the remaining categories: Looking for Shit becomes Organization; Wasting time is now Project Planning; Work will be called Production; Nagging is Family coaching. 

Since I’m not planning to cut back on sleep or taking care of my family, I've removed personal time from the equation, and this is how the remaining time is dispersed:

It is clear that I spend too much time organizing and not enough in production. The solution is to clean and rearrange the workspace so I can find things easily, and I have already drawn up the floor plan for the new space. It will take some time to put the pieces together, but I’ll try to document the process as I go.

Hello Sexy!

This is my favorite sewing machine, but sadly, we have lived apart for many years. She belongs to my mother, who brought her home back in 1977. This is the machine I learned to sew on, and like a first love, I will forever compare all other machines to her. She sews like butter. Anyway, my mother has taken pity on my lack of a machine that zig-zags or winds bobbins, and offered to let me borrow the Pfaff. I love this machine so much, I may have to name her. Maybe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The last post sort of ends without a conclusion which I’ll post as soon as I figure out what point I am trying to make. In the meantime, here is an in-progress look at the current home decor project I’m working on:
I have two very old and ugly apartment size sofas and last summer I splurged on Pottery Barn natural canvas slipcovers. Between the dog, the Kid, and our barbaric habit of taking meals in the living room, these are in the wash almost weekly (and need it more frequently). The slipcovers are the “tuck to fit” kind, and frankly, tucking and fitting them is too tiring to tackle more than once a month. I’ve resorted to putting quilts and blankets over the slipcovers to help keep them clean, but have tired of the ‘dorm room chic’ look this creates. I had planned to sew fitted slipcovers, and have already bought the fabric, but have procrastinated because the fabric is also a natural color, and will need to be laundered as frequently the current set. Instead, I’ve decided to make coordinating patchwork sofa covers for the slip covers using left over fabric. Sort of like grandma’s plastic couch covers, but not plastic. The top has been pieced and I kind of like the way it looks a bit modern (even Bauhaus?)  and a bit Navaho at the same time. I chose the color scheme carefully to coordinate with the surroundings:

I purposely avoided using a complicated design as I want this to be an easy project. The layers are currently pin basted together (top, low loft batting, backing) waiting to be machine quilted. I’m pretty sure the quilting is going to ruin the whole thing because I've never machine quilted before, am using a crappy machine (the one called the drunken tailor), the angles are wonky, and I can’t find the quilting foot. In fact, if it gets finished without catching fire or being eaten by the dog, it will turn out better than expected.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

how not to work from home

I’m not someone who makes yearly resolutions. Instead, I try to identify one habit or trait that I need to learn. Two years ago the idea was learning about rest and recuperation. Last year it was learning to say NO to others, and learning that sometimes it's OK to be selfish. I didn’t do very well with last year’s lesson, so this year will be a continuation of that process. The major part of this year's theme will be taking back control of my time.

Everything I've read about working from home says that stay at home/work from home parents are perceived to have unlimited free time by family members, and people who work outside the home. This is absolutely true! Plus, I have difficulty saying no and love feeling needed. This means that I end up in the middle of every activity the Kid is involved in. For example, during the three years the Kid was in Jr. high I made costumes for a school play (8), costumes for three conventions (8), sat on two volunteer boards, became a NCAA certified sports official, started and coordinated a group of a volunteers, was a non certified stats and score keeper, became a certified lifeguard, was the daily carpool driver for school and sports, as well as a Scout leader of 20+  teen age girls (and 6 moms) white water rafting, and for several other miscellaneous overnight trips. At the same time I was raising a teenager alone, finishing a college degree, trying to renovate a 165 year old house, and trying to start a business. Just reading that list is a bit overwhelming. These years were also filled with fatigue, chest pain and difficulty breathing as my immune system went insane and attacked my lungs and heart. After I found a doctor who didn’t roll his eyes and make snide comments about having “just another virus, no big deal”, I learned I had been operating with 36% lung function, so yeah, I wasn’t getting as much done as expected.

Guess what my priorities were during those years?
Other Family
Extracurricular activities for Kid

This year, I'm changing the order to this:
Other family

The Kid has been instructed not to volunteer me for anything. Period. And should anyone worry about her suffering neglect; she turns 18 soon and should be learning to cook and clean so she can be the live-in housekeeper we’ve always dreamed of. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Book of Paul Poiret fashions, illustrated by Paul Iribe 1908

Scan of all pages, in order, minus the blanks.

A little gem I found on Archive.org.


photo by Jacques Henri Lartigue  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/3809707.stm

2011 in Review: 

I started this blog, and opened the Etsy shop. The blog was intended to be strictly for business, but personal events directly impact my work decisions, and by not addressing these, there’s not much to post. I’m not someone who can keep their life neatly compartmentalized, so maybe it’s time to let it all run together.

Consider yourself warned.

First, though not foremost, I’m developing new “products” for MS&R. Geographically, this is a tough location for hunting vintage clothes and I’m loath to build a new business based on the whims of serendipity, so I need to branch out. I have tons of ideas and have been steadily making prototypes and patterns which always take more time than allotted. I’ve finally learned not to crow about my dreams until they can actually  work, so that’s all I’m prepared to say about the new products for now.

Second, and more importantly, The Kid and I have been eating healthier. We cut out gluten at the end of July and I immediately felt more energetic and a near cessation of the morning “feels like a 10 margarita hangover” headache. Within a few weeks I had lost 15 lbs. 

In the "stupid is as stupid does" category, I spent way too much time with someone who demanded most of my energy and attention. Sadly, it took a while to realize they were unworthy, and put an end to the fiasco. Still, it was a good reminder that a person’s behavior is a better gauge of  character than words. It’s easy to understand this in theory, but not so easy to recognize the conflict between words and actions in practice.

I began sewing again. I used to be an avid sewer, but stopped several years ago because it was no longer enjoyable.  Now that I am (mostly) mended, I am again finding pleasure in joining thread and cloth.

For the first time in many years, this New Year promises to bring new beginnings, joys and adventures. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

a little side project

I've been looking for something to make from a pile of old cashmere and wool sweaters and last night I made a very long striped scarf. But when I woke under the full moon this morning I took it apart and started over, this time using a chevron pattern. I like chevron even though it's wildly trendy right now which virtually guarantees it will be "out" by the end of the season. But I don't love it enough to paint the wall, or slipcover my sofa-- or offer it any other long term commitment.  It looks very nice, considering. Considering the colors are random, I'm using oddly colored left over serger thread (bright purple & black), and the pieces are smaller than I would have used, had I not already cut everything into 3" strips. I don't have the patience for a large, tedious piecing project right now, but can see making a scarflette, or perhaps, a cowl.

early morning under the full moon

this woke me at 4 am...