Friday, February 27, 2015


If you know me, which you probably do because you're my mother, then you know that what I really love working on is making a home. It is not the only thing I love to do, but it's up there. It somehow seems simultaneously frivolous and deeply personal, which keeps me from bringing it up to a lot of people or writing about it. But more than that, writing about homes would mean showing my home, which would mean a combination of cleaning and being home during daylight hours that seems to be a bit of a blue moon around here. But today I made it happen, mostly by letting go a bit. The beautiful antique parquet floors are still covered in gloopy, high gloss poly that I have no ability to change, there's random, unframed art lying around, an old birthday crown, loose cords and a dead leaf on the floor. This is my home.
About seven months ago I moved into this old apartment in an old brownstone in Bed-Stuy. I love it. So many things about it are frustrating: the temperamental radiators, the somewhat half-assed repairs done over the years, the 65 layers of paint on everything, and an equal number of paint drips on everything else. The weird (but original!) faux finished mantle, the entire bathroom, the bedroom that is just three inches too narrow for an ideal layout. My bedroom door is 5'9," bonking many a visitor in the face... but I love it. It's old. It has never been properly renovated. This means no one decided all the old good stuff should go. And it's the perfect size: just under 300 square feet (using some pretty generous measuring). Ten foot ceilings make it feel a lot bigger. There's room for everything I need, not enough room to hold onto lots of things I don't, but one weekend guest's bags aren't going to make us all claustrophobic. Plus, it's fun to go into other peoples' houses and figure out which room my whole apartment could fit into. Usually it's half the kitchen. 

I'll be posting/talking a lot more about my home, hopefully with properly styled photos, details, and maybe even some projects. (I'm looking at you, kitchen shelves!) This is the proverbial band-aid-ripping-off, getting over the weirdness of posting photos of something imperfect yet loved.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mud Season!

I've been singing Buzzcut Season by Lorde as "it's mud season anyway..." all day to celebrate. It will probably freeze back up tomorrow and I enthusiastically underdressed today (37 degrees really still mandates a proper winter coat), but whatever. The mercury, by which I mean the long-range temperature forecast chart on the weather underground dot com, is slooowly and steadily creeping up, if in a rambling, shuffling, two steps forward and one step back kind of way. That's the February/March change moment for you. Just when you wake up in the morning about to cry because you can't handle the cold and the dark for one more day with no end in sight, you make it through that day and then the sun starts rising on your way to work instead of after you get there, you refuse to wear long johns and don't die of hypothermia, and suddenly there's an end in sight.

To celebrate I have made medium-range plans to buy these shoes and these jeans (my remaining pair ripped yesterday thanks to some black ice and my impatience, and as much as I like to bring the country to the city, this isn't a farm and I need some intact pants).

Enjoy the mud, everybody! Be glad you didn't decide to buy a Prius when you live on a dirt road in Massachusetts like one of my neighbors did in high school.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Moment of Peace

This week is strangely empty. I'm calling it a vacation but really I'm still working maybe 20 hours and have classes. I'm sick. It's cold. I'm beginning to think I'll never feel my toes again, even propped this close to a space heater. I'm house sitting, and this place is way too big for me. I'm not used to having a break in the middle of the day like this, to work, to read, to draw...

This was the worst week to have to draw strangers. People aren't going outside. I'm sure as hell not going outside. So I'm cheating, drawing from old pictures to fill in the gaps between train rides and classrooms. Still timing myself so they're messy and sketchy and outside their own lines.
I'm not complaining. The cold, the solitude, the forced mindfulness and creativity, the constant dull banging from demo downstairs... it's unsettling. It's uncomfortable. It's good.

I have 30 more of these to do before 7. I should really go to the DMV or something, where everyone else is waiting too. But right now waiting alone, waiting to find a good shot, waiting for my numb fingers to trace it's contours from my eyes, is the most peaceful thing in the world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Art School

Taking classes at Parsons, I am surrounded by some super artsy people. It's not that I'm not artsy, it's just that I'm not really going to wear white flatforms with no socks in the dead of winter. So sometimes I feel decidedly un-cool, and not in the normcore way that is actually cool now. I recognise that art school is not my life, so I can't make major wardrobe/lifestyle/shaving my head changes for it, not that I would want to anyways. But if I had the energy or money, I would update things a little bit on those days, just to let a different side shine through. It's like my style: art school remix. 

Black jeans, because this is New York and charcoal is messy. 

Fake glasses to make me look cooler. One day I'll talk about my lifelong wish for worse vision. 

Moleskine. For sketching. And homework assignments like "doodle."* 

Grey silk. A bit fancier than my usual linen or cotton. To make me feel like a grownup.

Clogs. Because I love clogs. And they help with the whole "nutty Swedish children's book illustrator" vibe I have going on here. 

Pencil case. For keeping all the horribly expensive supplies contained.

Pencils! For keeping my hair up. And drawing, of course. 

Weird vintage jacket. Of course. 

Delicate jewelry. A little shine, nothing too much. 

*I apparently don't know how to doodle. I'm definitely doing it wrong. It's pretty though, right? 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Winter Bulbs

Explaining paperwhites to a toddler: "we have kept them in the cold, dark, earth for a long time so they know it's winter. Now, we will take them out, and give them water and let them see the warm sunshine so they think it is spring. That way, they will bloom for us a little before the other flowers to help us remember that spring is coming."

This is perhaps one of the ongoing activities I am most proud of this year. This simple, physical, observable, exciting, beautiful teacher of the rhythm of the year. I have found myself speculating about what the paperwhites might be thinking at different times (in response to repeated requests), excitement upon every return home or waking up to check if they grew, check if they think it's spring yet. And even I have found joy in checking on mine, whenever I get home, watching their pale roots slowly crawl and creep around the rocks, their ends swell and bloom, their bulbs burst open.

Next up: hyacinths. I bought a cut bunch at Trader Joe's this weekend and their "heady purple scent" is already mixing with the paperwhites' delicacy to make my apartment smell like the Smith Botanical Garden's annual bulb show (my childhood herald of spring). 

P.S. Barbara Cooney's books are absolutely fabulous. Just a general tip. For this end-of-winter time, and particularly as a subtle (don't over-explain it, let the children find the connection for themselves!) complement to this activity, I recommend Emily. Beautiful depictions of bulbs. And anytime of year, but perhaps particularly in springtime, the glorious Miss Rumphius

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Weeknight Sewing

This Wiksten tank took me two weeks to make. Every night when I came home, there was something waiting for me--maybe half an hour of sewing before I fell asleep. It was on hold for a while while I planned around not having enough fabric for binding, something eventually solved by Purl Soho's amazing collection of bias tapes. Green check for the inside seams. I like this approach to sewing. My table is consistently a mess, my sewing machine doesn't get put away, there are pins everywhere, but theres a project to look forward to all day. A little bit of creation to busy myself with on a regular basis. Next week, I think I'll try this blouse.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Appreciate the Slush

Yesterday was one of those hopeful days, one of those times when spring seems to have peeped its head out just to see what this whole winter thing is about. Today, with morning snowflakes and wind whipping my hair into a frenzy, is back firmly entrenched in February, but that smell of dampening earth has taken hold in the back of my mind, making me that much more thankful that this month is so short.

But yesterday! The water ran freely through the streets, turning snow piles to slush puddles that make the more elegantly shoed zig zag their way around the blocks to avoid the dreaded six inch pits of icy water and mud (and cigarette buts...) that find their way to where the curb meets the crosswalk.

Our post-nap ex-po-tition to the park was full of sunset chasing and small animal tracking in the snow, whose icy crust had softened and chipped in the warmth. And puddle jumping enough (slush makes puddles that much splashier) that my legs were soaked clear through from the knees down. #worthit

And yet, as it tends to do, the water froze up as the sun went down. Wet bits of sidewalk became slick ice. The snow crust hardened up. Winter, alas, had never gone. This morning those slush puddles had become rather dangerous miniature skating rinks (Thanks, police station, for being the only place on the nursery school block not to deal with that on their sidewalk) But at noon the snow softens and icicles drip. And the softly glowing pink sunset has quite satisfactorily replaced pitch darkness for a 5:30pm view.