July 30, 2010

Gwen Frostic goodness galore!

The first stop on our northern Michigan vacation was to Gwen Frostic's Studio and gift shop. Twice now I have missed this place despite being oh-so-close. Third time's a charm! The shop is under new management and is now open 7 days a week in case any of you are planning a visit.

Gwen is famous for her block prints and poetry, all nature-based. Nature is always a big inspiration for me so I have always felt myself to be a kindred spirit. Plus, I absolutely adore the look of prints anyway. Maybe I'll go into print making after I'm done with sewing and quilting.

I had pictured a little cabin off in the woods but what I got was a fairly sophisticated set up including its own print shop with press men who have been working there for over 40 years and over 20 years. That's some serious job commitment. I think it's pretty cool that people who knew her personally are carrying on her work. In my mind that makes everything that much more authentic.

I also couldn't help but notice the way nature was incorporated into the product displays and as wall decor.

Just for some additional incentive for those in the mood to shop, I found everything very reasonably priced. The only issue I had was choosing what to purchase! Where to begin?

As a final touch, they package your purchase in brown kraft paper with a spring of evergreen on the top. Lovely!

July 29, 2010

Confessions from a first time sewer

Ok, people, I am about to fess up to some serious mistakes here. I am just putting it out there so that my fellow crafty-at-hearts who haven't dared to attempt sewing or are in the baby steps, just-learning stage like me feel better. The rest of you can just be amused.

If you recall, the extent of my sewing experience involves:
A. watching other people do it for me
B. a one-time intro class

My dear partner in craft and I decided to make pillowcases to match our yet-to-exist quilts. Should be easy enough – right? All straight lines after all. Even I dared a bit of confidence!

First step, thread the bobbin (yay for me that I even know what a bobbin is!). I got the spool of thread and the empty bobbin in their places, all ready to go. I tentatively pushed down on the pedal. Nothing. "You need to turn on the machine," my friend reminded me. Oh.

Confession 1: I did not turn on the sewing machine!

Next step, getting the machine threaded. I carefully get that bobbin all settled in with the end of the thread right where it is supposed to be. Then I am studying the front of the machine and wondering about that diagram for the thread.

Confession 2: I forgot (again) that the thread comes from two places. This is seriously new to me.

Time to sew! I am happy to report that the very first steps of measuring and cutting and ironing (the iron and I are on friendly terms again) and pinning went just fine. So I really was ready to go.

Confession 3: Put the pins in the "wrong way" so they stick me as the fabric moves along. Oh well!

This is a straight line people. Straight! Oh no, heading off the edge again! Adjust!

Confession 4: I had to, uh, "adjust" 8 times. That might be more than an oops!

Hold it up to see how it went. Look closely and notice one of the pieces isn't even sewn in! Fail! Plus, check out this gobby thready mess at the beginning. Rough!

Confession 5: I ripped out the entire thing.

I wish I could tell you that I got right back on that machine but it just isn't true. Yet. At least I had a week of vacation in there as an excuse!

July 28, 2010

fabulous fossils

As promised, here is the stone that I adored but did not buy. It's a pale buttery yellow and has naturally occurring fossils that appear like delicate paintings of trees. I may have to buy a small piece to hang on the wall or prop up on the mantel. It's really that beautiful!

July 27, 2010

stone shopping!

We kicked off our vacation week with a visit to Best Bark & Stone in Jenison, Michigan. I have to admit I was swayed by their lovely, photo-filled website. And the recommendation of a friend of a family member.

However, there are several great stone places in our area and I can't say I recommend one over the other. We didn't get a chance to do much shopping around since most places close at 5:00 during the week and by early afternoon on Saturday. We will be looking around for somewhere that sells large stones already pre-cut into rectangles for use as steps though. So perhaps at that point I can add to my knowledge of west Michigan stone shopping options.

I was hoping to pick something compatible with our brick. Not necessarily an exact match but with the similar tones and warmth. I think we succeeded. There was another stone, one that will be worth of its own post tomorrow, that I adored but it was a pale yellow that wouldn't have been right.

I especially like the dramatic black mixed in. We bought three really large pieces (being weighed below). They'll be in the center of the patio and the small pieces will be worked around them. We bought extra hoping we'll have enough for stepping stones. That's another project though!

July 26, 2010

fabric for a quilt

I know, I know. So many un-done projects and here I am buying supplies for another.

These fabrics are for a quilt for my daughter's big-girl bed and bedroom. Yellows, pinks, and lime green. The flamingos are inspired by a poster she already has in her room that she loves showing off. I am starting the pillowcase two days after I bought the fabric. So that should count for something!

July 22, 2010

A quiet night at the Gardens

During the summer the Meijer Gardens are open late on Mondays as well as their usual Tuesdays. My daughter and I went the other night and walked on the boardwalk through the wetlands. I didn't bring a stroller and it was definitely a long way for her little legs.

We were awarded with lots of wildlife sitings along with our Chihuly glass though. First, a soaking wet muskrat with a yellow fish in its mouth crossed our path. Then we spotted, heard, and observed over 40 bullfrogs. We also enjoyed an assortment of birds: geese, ducks, herons, redwing blackbirds, and songbirds. On our way back in, while we were in the woodland garden, we spotted a skunk! How many critters can you get in one trip? I think everything was out and about since it was evening.

Find more information on Chihuly and his work on artsy.net.

July 21, 2010

imagine a stone patio underneath that pergola

I sure hope you aren't tired of my backyard project yet, dear readers. I am itching to get to some sewing projects soon but we're operating on a deadline for the backyard. The ultimate deadline would be Michigan winter but my teacher husband strongly prefers we get this beast tamed before real life (the school year) starts up again.

Here are some favorites gathered from the world wide web. You will note that these patios are made from more natural, rough stones. I have nothing against brick patios, mind you. In fact, I have seen many lovely examples while doing my research. However, I have always pictured our project as being more "natural" and haven't really changed my mind on that. I hope to choose stone that is colored in warm tones that will be compatible with the brick of our house. Also, we are planning on a curved edge like you see in the first few photos.

I also threw in a a few that aren't right for me but look really cool – like the one with square tiles broken up with the blue toned stones. Or the fancy curved wall with the fountain.

July 20, 2010

blue as berries

 A few weekends ago my daughter and her taste buds enjoyed our first outing to pick them fresh off of the bush. Just another thing to appreciate about the state of Michigan. I was warning her in advance about not eating too many. Before she popped the first one in she hesitated and looked at me for permission. I smiled and so did she.

How to describe this shade of blue? What is that soft chalky color on top of the deep dark blue-purple? Not really pastel but somehow shadowy. And are they oh-so-sweet. That very same day my chef toddler and I made blueberry bread and a blueberry crisp that we ate warm out of the oven with vanilla ice cream melted on top. Heavenly!

July 19, 2010

a warning about project creep

Come back in time with me. My daughter is 1 and splashing in her kiddy pool while husband and I soak are feet in it. We're in the far shady corner of the backyard contemplating our deck. We had been tossing around various ideas about improving it or creating some sort of roof to help block the evening sun that made a pleasant outdoor meal impossible. Suddenly my husband says "What if we took out the deck?" And so the discussion goes to stone patios and pergolas. I am excited and check out stacks of library books the very next day. Alas, my dear husband is in the throes of finishing his master's degree and the summer passes with no tangible progress.

This summer he is more serious and we begin spending our evenings standing on the deck waving our arms around. Or in the yard gesturing here and there. Or perched up on ladders to take the best aerial shots of the deck so we can sell the wood on Craig's list. The neighbors must be amused.

The deck is ripped out. More arm waving and now scratching lines in the dirt and dragging hoses into curves. More stacks of library books and oodles of web pages.

Suddenly what began as two large projects: patio and pergola has grown. The list has quietly gotten longer, creeping along with our creativity.

One day this:
1. stone patio
2. pergola

Became this:
1. stone patio
2. pergola
3. steps off of sun room
4. stepping stone path from gate
5. stepping stone path from front yard
6. side yard garden along stepping stone path
7. pocket gardens beneath pergola and next to sun room
8. vines for pergola
9. furniture for patio (gliding rocker bench!)
10. fence replacement

We probably aren't going to get to the fence this summer. And of course the gardens can grow over time. I am tempted to make some purchases though since plants are starting to be marked down. And as soon as that row of lilies is done blooming they have got to go because they are really in the way of this project.

We have really got our work cut out for us now!

July 16, 2010

tra la la trellis

What the heck is she talking about? "Craftsman style trellis?!" Well, I read that somewhere so it must be the official name! The trellis I so love is not your standard thick diagonal pieces. Instead, it is thin and square and so geometrically lovely. See below example. In case you were interested.

It is more open than a standard trellis but I think with some training vines will grow up it just as well.

July 15, 2010

pergola inspiration

My husband found this woman's blog post on her pergola project. I was super amused with the name of her site (DIYdiva) and her sassy attitude. Plus, I am totally in love with her finished product. They even did a stone patio underneath, which is what we are going to do.

What does everyone think of the outdoor curtains? I am inclined to liking them.

PS She did this project and posted on it back in 2007. Kudos to Google!

July 14, 2010

imagine a pergola

A lovely outdoor room with flowering vines growing up a craftsman style lattice and climbing over the rooftop created a shaded backyard oasis. Ahhh...

July 13, 2010

Step it up!

Some stair ideas from our stack of library books. The last two are more modern than suits the style of our home but they are so unique and lovely I wanted to include them for your viewing pleasure.

July 12, 2010

imagine a rounded set of steps

Not half a wedding cake. Please, no one forward this sketch onto my drawing teacher!

My vision is for the steps to be the width of the sliders, even though we'd actually only need stairs where they open. But making them wider would be visually "right." I am not 100% sure that the stone will be the same as that used on the patio but I fully intend they will be created in a similar color palette. I am excited that my husband thinks he can do the rounded design. That curve will mimic the curves we already have around the backyard garden and the curved edge we envision for the patio.

Another option we have discussed, one that is still on the table depending on what we discover when we're stone shopping, is using a large, thick rectangular stone to be an instant step.

Also, I am not necessarily sure we'll need two steps. It may just end up being one. In that case, I will probably arrange the stepping stones in some sort of curved, entrance area right in front of the step.

July 11, 2010

stepping stones yet again

Ok, so the dear husband and I have agreed on doing simple stepping stones for now with the option to add gravel in the future. So our stones will be flush with the ground and have grass growing around them. Like this photo except I am planning on using irregularly shaped flagstones.

 We're also doing a stepping stone path alongside the edge of the house, leading from front yard to back. I figured we might as well buy all the stone at once!

July 9, 2010

more on stepping stones

We've been checking out mountains of books from the Library. The great debate is what goes between the stones in the path – gravel? grass? other plants? Some favorite inspirations below:

July 5, 2010

splatter painting in the backyard

One of my favorite blogs is Artful Parent. This entry on doing splatter painting outdoors looked like a lot of fun to me. And so this week we finally did it. With a mischievous smile and a question in her eyes, Julia took a swipe on her legs. I told her it was ok and she proceeded to paint herself and then me. She also did some "ice skating" (a recent obsession) in the wet paint. We both were greatly amused.

Helpful hint: A good scrubbing does not remove the paint. Wear pants the next day.

July 1, 2010

Ottawa Hills Garden Tour

J. and I went on a Saturday morning adventure together last weekend. We strolled the beautiful Ottawa Hills neighborhood and the 15 gardens that were open to the public (and the tour is free!). All of the homes in this neighborhood are older. My favorite gardens were in the small urban backyards. I love that feeling of enclosure – your own private paradise!

My biggest inspiration was the idea of a side yard garden or path. I don't have quite the same width or a tall fence along my house but I am becoming quite enamored with the idea of strolling from the front yard through an arch and into our in-progress outdoor room.