Wednesday, December 26, 2012

post-holiday reflections

Thinking a lot about the words above today. We had a great holiday, but for the first time I can remember, I'm actually enjoying the quiet "after" more than Christmas itself. Trying to craft a space of reflection and solitude as we approach the coming year. I've had a strong sense of big changes ahead of us for awhile now, and I guess I'm trying to work my way into a place where they are possible.

Does that make any sense?

Lying here on my stomach typing, cat asleep on my back, Avett Brothers playing and candle burning in the background, it seems like I'm off to a decent start. But what is the beginning when all that exists is the present? Life and the Paradox of Being . . . so it goes.

Winter, you suit me just fine. Especially since I know spring always comes again.

Image via; text added by me, first found here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

a merry little (handmade) christmas

Though working long hours has left me with little time for blogging or anything else, I did manage to relish my favorite season here and there with some additional handmade projects . . .

This banner sort of just came together one Saturday a couple weeks ago. I like its sweet simplicity, and that it took next to nothing energy-wise for me to make it.

I started by covering some mini clothespins in shimmery washi tape.

The knit cord was left over handiwork from our time in Abu Dhabi. 

A couple pushpins and several craft paper letters later, and voila! Easy, chill Christmas decor.

I wish I could say this year's cards were also that simple. 

But NO. They most definitely were not. I should've known I was on dangerous terrain when I started hand-carving the lino block for the text back in early November. In my mind, the cards HAD to have white ink, and for some reason block printing seemed like the best option at the time. Let me just say: IT WAS NOT. Next time, I'm sucking it up and buying the at-home screen printing kit. While I did have fun making them (for the most part), they ended up being pretty time-consuming. 

I ended up using an oil-based watermark ink pad with white embossing powder and a heat tool to get the look I was going for with the text. It took FOREVER to get enough clear, relatively consistent prints to do even the bare minimum number of cards. 

As for the interior text, I just hand wrote it with a marker. As a former handwriting nerd/addict in my elementary school years, this was probably the easiest and most enjoyable step of the entire process.

I ordered all the photos through Postal Pix and attached them with glue dots. All other materials came from Paper Source.

Oh, except for the Nepalese paper I used to line the envelopes. (WHO DOES THIS?!? Crazy people, that's who.) That I picked up at Anthro.

In the end, I love how our cards turned out, and other people seem to enjoy them too, which counts for a lot! After all, the goal was to bring a smile to the faces of our friends and family, and I think these cards did the trick (even if I did want to stab myself in the hand with my Xacto knife on more than one occasion).

Speaking of cards, we have definitely been enjoying any and all that have come our way! They hang on the wall above the entrance to our apartment. and I love seeing them as I pass by. Joy indeed :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

it's beginning . . .

. . . to look ever-so-slightly like Christmas around here. I'm having fun taking my time this year, both out of choice and necessity. 

Lulu supervises the making of a modern yarn tree

Pom-pom making 101: From janky to halfway decent

Gold sticker garlands

Festive nail polish for an at-home manicure

Best. Thing. EVER.

We borrowed a branch from Charlie Brown's tree for these little wooden shoes

Monday, December 3, 2012

alter egos

As I was walking to work today, wool scarf and cozy parka feeling entirely inappropriate for this heat wave we're having, it occurred to me that, as of late, my main fashion goal seems to be dressing like Lindsay Weir. It's subconscious, but oh, it's happening. Considering in the past some of my favorite outfits have channeled Harriet the Spy and other tomboy-ish figures, this isn't exactly shocking. I thought it'd be fun to do the anti-Lindsay (very Emy) thing and put together a little round-up inspired by the character.

similar parka | tshirt | skinnies | loafers | tote | scarf (no longer available)

Also, maybe I don't mean "reimagined" so much as "revised and updated," but you get the gist ;)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

giving thanks in florida

This year we did something so totally and brilliantly uncharacteristic for our family. We abandoned the dropping Midwest temps and headed to Sanibel Island for a much-needed dose of rest, relaxation, and vitamin D. 

Going against the Thanksgiving grain isn't all that uncommon for Andy or me. Whether celebrating early with friends in Germany (me), cooking a small meal after work in North Dakota (him), or joining the banquet table at a hotel in Abu Dhabi (both of us), we've experienced quite the grab bag. However, it was my mom's first-ever Thanksgiving away from home, if you can believe it! I'm so happy she stepped outside what was routine and expected. It's made for the start of one fantastic new tradition.

Monday, November 5, 2012

it's not perfect . . .

. . . but it's progress.

Slowly slowly, the spare room is turning into a space I actually want to spend time in. Yesssss! What you can't see here is our now-full bookshelf, on which six bankers boxes worth of books now reside. (And I repeat, Yesssss!) Apparently all it takes is a sick day and Freaks and Geeks in its entirety on Netflix to get this girl moving. 

As for the shopping trip that distracted me the first time around, well, I'd say it was also a success. Andy bought me the best scarf from Anthro, just because. (I can't find it anywhere on their website, and mine was the last in store. Which I suppose only makes it feel doubly special.) I've been wearing the dang thing nonstop since we purchased it, like an adult security blanket. 

Mmm mmm, so cozy and warm. This is love, people. I may even be ready for snow. Just look for me camped out in my studio, minky goodness around my neck. Yep - that is most definitely what I consider "winter-ready." x

Saturday, November 3, 2012


We were supposed to head to Ohio this weekend for friends & football, but neither of us has been feeling that great, so we bailed and decided to do one of our most favorite things of all time, ever: Stay home. (Come on, it's not like we never get out. We just really relish those no-pressure, go-nowhere times, too. Introverts times a thousand.)

After spending several hours reading, surfing, and sipping coffee, I decided I'd spend the rest of the day tackling this situation:

Yep, that's my "studio." Or, as we like to call it in its current state,"Room where we throw whatever we don't want the cats to get, along with all the crap we STILL haven't unpacked." 

My little art dream space, where, as of right now, absolutely no magic happens. (With the exception of this post.*)

But you know how when you're cleaning the bookshelf? And you sort and dust like a pro for approximately two minutes, and that's when you come across your high school yearbook/a favorite book from childhood/that title your grandma passed down to you years ago? So you start reading and flipping and finding sweet tokens tucked between the pages. Three hours later, you're ready for a nap and a snack, and the bookshelf is still a mess.

Welcome to the digital-age equivalent. 

I took the above photo of my mess, hoping it would soon be the hideous "before" picture of an impressive "after" reveal. And now, two hours later, I've gone through all my recent snapshots on Instagram, taken additional photos of bits & pieces collected over time on an inspiration board, eaten four Chocodates, and finished two cups of coffee. Also, pinned a bunch of stuff and changed my pants. PROGRESS.

Ah, anyway. Andy just came in to tell me he's going to the mall where a new Madewell just opened (I've never been in one of their stores), so it looks like I'm going back into the world after all.

Cheers, then!**

*HA. Yeah right.

**Make it a double if you've managed to stick with this post to the ridiculous non-commital, un-edited conclusion.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

breaking up is hard to do

Strange life thing no one tells you: Your siblings' breakups may be just as hard as your own. (Well, ok - almost. But still, pretty damn difficult, if you ask me.)

So, is the prescription the same? Hot bath, good cry, warm cuppa . . . and fingers crossed that your intuition doesn't lie. x

Sunday, October 14, 2012

life, last year

Speaking of processing the expat experience, I discovered a few photos from the UAE/Oman archives the other day while hunting for some files on my computer . . .

Throw your hands up! We met some gorgeous children at dusk on the outskirts of an Omani village, all because we followed a sign that said "Castle." I love a good detour. The castle turned out to be locked, but it didn't matter: The children were magic.

At the "Grand Canyon of Arabia." I look like I'm trying to hang artwork or arrange furniture: "A little to the left -- wait, no, now down, no, up . . . ." (I think I was pointing out hiking trails, though we saved those for a return visit.)

Buying a goat hair rug on the top of Jebel Shams, where the same family of herders has been weaving them for years. On a later visit, thanks to a string of inadvertently fortunate events, we were invited inside this man's home, where we were given tea and dates while conversing as best we could with both him and his eldest son. Again, magic.

Riding a camel for the first time while on a desert safari. Honestly, I felt bad for these creatures, but there are some things you don't escape the UAE without doing.

I've already got plans for one of these to make an appearance on this year's Christmas card. I know it probably feels too soon to be thinking about that, but I want to make them myself which requires a little more time and effort. Plus, we have last year's to beat ;)


PS - Thanks to our friend Phil, photo-maker extraordinaire, for capturing these images and many more of us and our life in the Gulf. Lord knows we never would've gotten around to it ourselves!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

between grief and high delight

Image via

I had a breakdown in the shower this morning.

Between working long hours as the days get shorter and barely seeing my husband (and, let's face it, quickly falling into sibling-like squabbles when our paths do cross), I've hardly had time to grocery shop, let alone focus on art or writing of any kind. So my emotional world has been a little out of whack.


But then this morning, somewhere in the middle of sobbing and shampooing, I had a wild thought: "This is probably just re-entry shock."

How come so many lightbulb moments are also "duh" moments?

Image via

So I got out of the shower, dried my eyes and combed my hair, and did what I generally do in times of need: Googled. 

After a few minutes of clicking and skimming, I came across the book Homeward Bound by Robin Pascoe. In the introduction, the author says it took her two years plus to cycle through rollercoaster that is re-entry after repatriation.

Two. Years.

I haven't stayed in one place for more than two years in almost a decade. Which means that, since moving abroad for the first time in 2004 (as an exchange student to Germany), I've never let the cycle of reverse culture shock fully run its course.

This is a monumental realization for me. (Cue "Duh" bulb number two.)
No wonder my life has felt slightly derailed ever since then! No wonder I'm craving rootedness more deeply with each passing month -- and finding it so difficult to find.

Image via

I told a friend the other day that I already have itchy feet, and it's true: I've been daydreaming about teaching English in Ethiopia on a regular basis.

I've also been craving art more than ever, maybe because it's the one thing I've carried with me wherever I've been (well, that and a debit card ;) Also, a good notebook and pencil). When I'm making, I'm in the process even when I'm not actively creating (meaning, I'm constantly thinking about what I'm making), and the rest of life feels approximately ten thousand times more in balance. 

I know that what I need right now is most definitely NOT another move. It's simply more art.

That, and about 24 months.

Image via

Monday, October 8, 2012

bits & pieces of the weekend

. . . most of which was spent exactly where I wanted to be: at home.

(Can you feel that glow? I'm a big fan of hanging out around my nest, by myself. Only recently have I grasped just how crucial it is to my overall stability and sense of well-being. The "glorious alone" . . . )

Maybe I've got it more together than I thought. x