Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Existential Thoughts, and What I've Been Up To

I'm sorry I have not been around much lately.  As I said when I started this blog, we'll see how good I am about maintaining fresh content.  Life has kept me busy with work, trips, and events.  Last month I celebrated my birthday and took a family trip to NYC. This month has been filled with local outdoor festivals, more birthday parties, and lots of good food and climbing.

Supposedly the best burger in NYC.
Working a 5.9 at Earth Treks
In New York we took our what is becoming an annual trip to MoMA and viewed both the Björk and Yoko Ono retrospectives.  While the Björk exhibit has received much criticism in the press, I actually found it thoughtful and impacting.  I had listened to Björk a lot during her first few albums, but had not kept up with the musician for the last decade.  It was wonderful to be reminded of her incredible talents vocally, as a composer, and as the artistic director of her persona.  While some critics felt that the exhibition did not give enough credit to Björk's many collaborators, what they fail to remember is that she is still the storyteller and artistic director of  her life's work. In fact, the artists she has worked with got much more credit than anyone who ever worked for Jeff Koons or Da Vinci.  In fact, the musician deals with this very issue (albeit more in relation to her music) in a recent interview she did with Pitchfork. In any case, I wish I had had more time to fully experience the section of the exhibit called Soundlines as it was intended.  My son kept asking the rest of the day what had happened to the girl in the story.  Makes me smile.

What truly moved me though, was the video experience created for her song Black Lake, from her new album, Vulnicura. While you can find a version of the video on YouTube, you can only experience the work as it was intended in the special black box theater designed for the exhibit.  There were two screens on opposite walls that played complementary, but different versions of the video and over 30 speakers around the room, each playing a different instrument from the song.  What that created was an immersion into the intense feelings of loss and grief that the song portrays. It was beautiful.

As for the Yoko Ono retrospective, I came away truly impressed.  I had never paid that much attention to her art, which is surprising since I am usually a fan of conceptual art, and am so glad that I was able to learn more about her work and the meaning behind it.  My favorite pieces from the exhibit were those that involved the audience.  The items related to her book Grapefruit remind me of the work of Lawrence Weiner.  Both artists created works or instructions that leave much in the hands of the interpreter.  They may have an idea in mind, but are also letting that idea go and opening their work up to the ideas of others.  It is a broader way of collaborating artistically.  I also appreciated Bag Piece and Ono's desire to share with others in a physical way the feelings of shyness she had growing up.  It can be difficult to make other people understand our emotions, and this is an interesting attempt at bridging that gap.

This time of year is a time of reflection for me.  It is the time of year when my son was born, and the time of year when my father died.  The happiest day of my life and the saddest day of my life.  I wish these two events were not so closely linked in time (though thankfully my son and father got one year together), but I guess that is the existential nature of life.  It's still a bitch though.  So I will try this weekend to honor both my son and my father by doing things they both love.  Enjoying music, the beach, seafood, and time with family.  If I am brave enough, I will ride a wave in my father's honor.  I will definitely eat shrimp and listen to jazz.

My father and I, surely listening to jazz.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Out of the Dark and into the Light

We all went through it, that chocolate wood phase.  And while I have been able to replace some of the cheaper, less sturdy items from that time with some good mid century finds, it is not practical or environmentally friendly to replace everything.  We have a set of these nightstands from West Elm (discontinued) scored years ago via Craigslist.  And while I have grown tired of the color as we have lightened up the rest of the wood furniture in our bedroom, they remain incredibly useful mini dressers.  So instead of replacing them, it was time for a hack.

Now I am always up for a furniture refinishing challenge, but as a working mom with no garage or workshop, often have to make sure my projects can be completed within a few hours. So those were my parameters for updating these chocolate bars.  I had thought about possible painting them, but then became inspired by some things I found in the One Spot at Target.

So with some wrapping paper that reminded me of this iconic wallpaper pattern from Ferm Living and a bit of Modge Podge (first time user), I lightened up this bad boy to get me through the years until I can reach my goal of a capsule wardrobe (easier said than done, but this is my inspiration of one well done).  Now the thing with working in kraft paper and Modge Podge is that it is nearly impossible to get it completely smooth, even with a brayer, which I used.  But in natural light you don't really notice the bubbles unless you are really looking for them.

The nice thing about this hack is that it won't be too hard to sand the paper off if I ever decide to take the time and paint these nightstands.  I have an idea about painting them the same color as the wall, but will wait in case I get the urge (ok, let's be real, act on the urge I already have) to repaint our bedroom. So what do you think? Not perfect, but hopefully an improvement over last decades fad color.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Old Hobbies Die Hard

Growing up I was extremely lucky to have a grandmother and great aunt (also like a grandmother) who were incredibly talented seamstresses and crocheters.  In my pre-teen and teen years I worked on various projects with them.  It was hard work, but incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.  I still have the sewing kit they left me, as well as the old Singer, which is badly in need of repairs.

While I have no space right now to set up a sewing shop, crochet needles take up a lot less space.  The last piece I crocheted was completed during my first winter break of undergrad, many years ago.  It was a very small throw, mostly because I ran out of yarn.  I had begun the project a few years before, and by the time I got around to finishing the blanket, I had forgotten one of the stitches. But I held on to my little blanket, and then it found its perfect use as a blanket for my son.

For the past few months I had been thinking of taking up crochet again.  It is very calming and I have always liked working with my hands and creating objects that can be both beautiful and useful.  So when a few weeks ago I was able to snag about 16 skeins of pure wool yarn that had been shorn from a single sheep (I think) for $4 at a yard sale, it was time to pick up my hook once more.  After a few days of practicing stitches again I realized that if I really wanted to get back into this craft, that I would need a new set of hooks.  I was using an old Susan Bates hook that had been my great aunt's.  And while it is a very god hook, it was causing my hands to cramp and even starting a blister on one of my knuckles.  Yes, I was probably holding the hook too tightly, but I also knew that there must have been some advancements in hooks over the years.  So after a little searching online, I bought some ergonomic hooks with super comfortable rubber coated handles.  Not only are my hands no longer cramping, but the hooks actually make me hold them better.  You can find the set I have here.

I also went ahead and decided to buy a pattern.  I have never crocheted with a pattern before, and honestly, trying to read a crochet or knitting pattern is like trying to learn a whole new language.  I mean, they have more acronyms than Washington, D.C.! But I found this insanely gorgeous cardigan (which is actually hard, since there are not a lot of good modern crochet patterns out there) that looks like something you would find at Anthropology, so I decided to dive in. The pattern is by Kat Goldin, who also has some lovely patterns for accessories and kids.

Styling by Claire Montgomerie for Inside Crochet
Photos by Britt Spring

Since I am just getting back into the habit, I am using what I have, so the wrong type of yarn and the wrong hook size.  I am hoping to get some linen blend yarn to do a summer weight version once I am back in the swing of things. But for now, I am happy to have something calming to do on the metro (even if I get some stares). I'll post an update once the first draft of the sweater is done.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Not Just for Kids: The Land of Nod

Dining Area Before
You may remember from this post that we were planning a small redecoration of our dining area and how we began with some new art from the IKEA Art Event 2015.  Well I am happy to say that we completed the small re-do with an amazing rug and pendant lamp from The Land of Nod.  Yup, that's right, targeted at your kid's room The Land of Nod.  But you know what? I never understood why their furniture and decor were supposed to be just for the small set.  In fact, of all the items we have bought there (which admittedly aren't many, since prices are kind of high, even though quality is amazing) only one is used by our son. Maybe we are kids at heart, of maybe The Land of Nod is really just a purveyor of happy modern goods for the entire family. So without further ado, here is the new setup.

What do you think? OK, so not drastic, but sometimes small calculated changes can make quite the difference. While I used to describe my interior style as Modern Ethnic, for the past year I have seriously been veering towards a Mid Century Scandinavian aesthetic.  I can't get enough of black, white, grey, and neutral tones with pops of color.  Maybe it is my lifelong love of IKEA (a post on that soon) or my obsession with blogs like My Scandinavian Home, Time of the Aquarius, and That Nordic Feeling. Either way, I can't help but be drawn to the happy modern minimalism of the north.

We couldn't be happier with the change.  The rug is the 88-Key Rug in Gray (on sale!) and is heaven on our feet. We did add some plastic matting to the area under our son's seat though, to protect the rug from his constant spills (something I wish we had done with the last rug). So far, so good. The light is the Charm Pendant, and is one of the few pieces that my husband and I agreed on instantly. He particularly likes how it has a lighter presence in the room overall. I love how after almost nine years we finally have the hole to the light box in the ceiling covered up.  Here is how the top of the old fixture looked. Yikes!  
And here it is now. Ahhh, so much better.

For those who care, the tablecloth is from H&M.  I'm sure we will still use the old blue one too though, which is really just some plastic coated fabric from IKEA, since we need to use place mats on top of the new one.

Now all that is left to do is enjoy our new space with a nice espresso.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Springtime in Washington

We all know what springtime in D.C. means. Cherry blossoms!  We are lucky in the D.C. area to have a few options for blossom viewing, since having to brave the Tidal Basin with all the tourists would be a nightmare (no offense tourists, but it's just too crowded!).  So on the first day that actually felt like Spring, my family and I headed to our local spot to check out the white blooms.

Luckily, the streets were not too crowded and there was a nice selection of kids selling home baked cookies and fresh squeezed lemonade.  Peak season ends tomorrow, so if you live in the area and have not had a chance to check out this treasure, I recommend making it outside today.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Small Storage DIY

Last year over the holidays we purchased this delicious honey flight from Trader Joe's.  Besides the honey being great, I loved the size and shape of the jars and knew I would want to repurpose them. Now with a little chalkboard paint and washi tape (all materials from the Target One Spot), they are perfect for housing desk supplies.

I'm still working on my chalkboard handwriting (and handwriting in general), but at least now I have a nice way to store my paperclips, push pins, and air.  Because, yes, we all need a little air sometimes.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all those who celebrate today!

Here are the eggs that my son and I decorated yesterday. This year we decided to get creative with paint pens. Maybe next year will be the year to try the more traditional (and messy) dye.