Friday, July 31, 2009

More Polka Dot Offerings

I love how so many catalogs are on the Polka Dot Bandwagon, right now. All these lovely images are from Garnet Hill. For years, I've been buying their sheets and pillowcases, and they're great. They have wonderful colors and prints, they won't fade even after years of washing, they're soft yet strong, and very well made.

What started out as a bedding and bathtowels company, with adorable offerings like this:has expanded into cute clothing and accessories, like these fabric belts:

and this cute swim skirt (It looks like shorts, at first glance, because there's one white polka dot at the center of the hem. But it's a skirt.):

and ballet flats with some teensy polka dots on the shoes' interior:

a polka-dot gored skirt that, at 25 inches long (23 inches for petites), gives you plenty of fabric for twirling and swishing (although I'd like even better if it didn't have an elasticized waistband):

And look at this cute outfit! I admit, it's partly all the knitwear that makes this such a great look:

Yet again, I end a polka-dot posting with a lamp. While not technically polka dots, the graduated spheres of the lamp base come close. And it's such a pretty one:

Way to go, Garnet Hill!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shorty Scarf, #2

Yesterday I created a short, knit scarf (see my post from 7/29/09). I used yarn bits and pieces I had left over, added a button and buttonhole, and voila! A fun new project. I can repeat this exercise about 50 times over and not run out of yarn scraps or buttons, my scrap bag is so large.

Here's Take #2 on the Shortie Scarf Adventure.

First, I found some adorable, speckled yarn (almost like randomized polka dots, no?). I combined this yarn with a plain black yarn and knit up a very basic rectangular scarf:

I used ridiculously large needles (approximately as big around as a man's thumb). How did I know when to stop? I stopped when I ran out of the speckled yarn! The finished scarf was about 6 inches wide, 28 inches long. Then I stacked a medium-size, Life-Saver-shaped white button on top of a large black one and used the plain black yarn to sew the button combo onto the completed scarf:

Here's a shot of the finished product, hanging on my favorite laundry's hanger. You can see how loose the stitches are when using such big needles:

And because I refuse to keep showing my neck in these photos, here's a shot of the finished product, with the hanger giving you a sense of the scarf's size and shape:

What's extra nice is these scarves are completely reversible. That is, you can have the button hanging on your left or right side, allowing you to fasten the scarf around your neck with either the right side over the left (like women's clothing) or the left over the right (like men's).

Now on to the next scarf! And the next, and the next....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Something from (Almost) Nothing

It's hot as the dickens here in the city. When it's this infernal outside, it's best to hide inside and look for cool, quiet things to do. So I riffled through my leftover yarns and made something from (almost) nothing!

If you knit or crochet, invariably you end up with little scraps of leftover yarn. Usually I turn the washable yarn bits into patchwork afghans for several charities in my neighborhood (more on that some other day). But my bits of dry-clean-only yarns aren't suitable for charity. So yesterday I took a solitary mini-skein of hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn from Santa Fe sheep:

Oh, look! a random pug hair! One of 10,000 that float around my house at any given moment. Here's a closeup:

Anyway, I plucked the pug hair off the Santa Fe yarn and combined said yarn with a little bit of fancy, fuzzy stuff:

And made an incredibly short knit scarf. It's just enough to go around your neck and not much more. But I created a buttonhole in one end of the scarf, and then picked through my collection of blue buttons:

...until I found this one, a big, fat, vintage one from a friend's shuttered needlework store:

I sewed the button on the opposite end of the scarf from the buttonhole to create this...umm, what would you call it? Short scarf? Knit dickie? Fuzzy cravat? I don't know what to name it, but come the cold weather (yes, we do get cold weather in L.A.), it will nicely fill in the neckline of a jacket or coat. And it'll do it without being all long and droopy and catch-in-the-spokes-of-your-motorcar-ish, with apologies to Isadora Duncan:

Yeah, it looks a little odd wearing it with a summer tee shirt. But it was 98 degrees on my porch!

I'm jazzed with the way this turned out, and I have approximately 90-gazillion other yarn bits to use up. Today I'm working on a black-and-white polka-dotted yarn, and if it turns out well, I'll show you that one tomorrow.

Monday, July 27, 2009


"Love is the practice of difference as relation"

-Catherine Keller, from Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming, a crazy-amazing-beautiful-confusing book I read for my Experience of G-d class last semester.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thank You, J.K. Rowling

This is my baby, all six feet, one-half inch of him. He's a lovely person, smart and funny and handsome and athletically gifted and a good student. He reads what he has to for school, but (unlike the rest of the family), he doesn't read for pleasure much. This sorta/kinda/totally breaks my heart.

And then every once in a while, he gets into a book the way submarines get into the ocean. The way chocolate gets into cake. The way...well, you get the idea. A bomb could go off overhead, and he wouldn't know. Because he's reading J.K. Rowling.

And I sing hosannas in the next room.

For some reason, the "Harry Potter" series grabs him like nothing ever has. When he was little, I read the books aloud to him. Then he got big and read every one of them himself. Then every time one of the movies came out, he re-read the corresponding book. So after seeing "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" twice last weekend, he re-read the sixth and seventh books in an upside-down, flop-all-over-the-couch literary marathon.

Maybe there's hope for him, yet.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yard Sale Treasures

I'm not a big fan of yard sales. Usually they feature too much trash and not enough treasure. But I was out walking the dogs early this morning and stumbled upon a really good sale. Oodles of stuff, lots of it very nice, and the young man and woman running the operation begged me to come over so they could say "Hi" to the pugs.

How could I say no?

So they held Mu Shu's and Won Ton's leashes, and I made a beeline to the crystal, china, and silver. This is what I found:

A pair of Reed & Barton silverplated candlesticks with glass bobeches plopped on top of them. The wax-catchers clearly weren't manufactured to go with these candlesticks, but I liked the swirly pattern of the glass:

This one has the tiniest flecks of red glitter (about the 9:30 position) and bits of green wax at 1, 3, and 5 o'clock. Makes me wonder; were they last used at Christmas? I hope it was a happy one. The base of one of the candle holders has been oddly broken:

I learned later from my wonderfully knowledgeable silversmith that the damage was probably caused by somebody polishing the candlestick. It's a common mistake, she explained, for people to polish silver or dry a crystal glass by wrapping a cloth around it, then twisting the base in one direction and the top the opposite way. The torquing is more than some slender objects can bear. So word of warning: Don't "wring its neck" if you are cleaning or drying something with a slender part!

This is the bottom of the candlesticks. My wise and auspicious silversmith says don't be fooled by the word "Sterling" there. Yes, it is sterling. But it's a paper-thin layer of sterling applied over a base that is made of a sort of clay/wax composite. The composite dries out and shrinks over time, leaving the thin layer of sterling susceptible to dings and tears of this sort.

Bottom line: pretty, but not worth fixing up. (I'd guessed as much, but I love getting her input because I always learn something). These will make a nice addition to my slightly funky collection of silver candlesticks. And someday I'll happily fork them over one of my children upon setting up his/her first apartment.

The next item I found at the yard sale didn't start out so hot. It has a chipped lip:

But it's a very sweet little bud vase, a little over four inches tall, heavy and well weighted for its size. And I love the cuts, with the diamond pattern on top and the parallel horizontal cuts climbing the sides. It reminds me of a Waterford crystal pattern (although it is not). Filled with water and flowers, the vase won't even look like it has a chip, I bet:

Lastly, I pounced on this beauty. It's another bud vase, this one about seven inches tall. The cuts on it are very understated, very restrained, almost tailored in appearance:

And--ta-daaaa!--it's genuine Waterford! Here's the ghostly-looking, etched name, which usually appears on the foot of any hollow-ware Waterford article, be it goblet, vase, bowl, or tumbler:

Plus, this taller vase doesn't have a nick or a flea bite on it! (A "flea bite" is a tiny, often unseen nick in the edge of crystal or china that can't be readily seen but is felt when you run a finger over it.) I love the way the two vases look together, like Mutt and Jeff, George and Gracie. One short and fancy, one tall and plain:

Anybody care to guess how much the pug-loving young folks charged me for this haul? To review, it was 1)a pair of Reed & Barton sterling candlesticks, 2)two swirly-glass bobeches, and 3)two vases, one of which is Waterford crystal, in mint condition. Guesses, anybody?

How much do you think?

Would you believe...


Nope, less than that. A lot less.



Yup; that's it. Three measly bucks! I almost felt like I was robbing them, but when I asked, "How much?," that's what they said. I didn't even bargain with them to get to that number!

I was so happy with my finds, I grabbed my goodies and my pugs, paid them $3.00...


gave them $12.00 extra just because I couldn't stand paying so little. Wimp!

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Clean House" Yard Sale

Man, how I love a good "before-and-after" story! Magazines, newspapers, and television shows regularly feature these Cinderella transformations. I love witnessing the magic when folks renovate an old house, restyle a frump into a femme, or clear out the crud in a cluttered home. Just makes me so happy!

So of course, when I found that the renovating show Clean House was taping a show in my neighborhood, I had to go check it out:

It was a hot summer morning in the Valley, but the heat didn't keep the crowds away. That was the job of the big security guy on the far right of the picture above, who kept asking for us to move out of the street:

But we want to get at the stuff, Mr. Security Dude! The family practiced twice yelling their lines ("Yard sale's open! Come on in!" or something like that), and then on the third time, we were allowed to swarm onto the premises. While we nabbed our second-hand prizes, the film crew buzzed around their Queen Bee:

Do you see her? She's in there somewhere!

Its Niecy Nash. She’s even prettier in person than she is on camera!

While the film crew buzzed around Niecy, I got into a bidding war with the momma of the cutest red-headed baby in all of Los Angeles. I paid too much for a rustic-framed mirror. But it was for a good cause, because all the proceeds go to cleaning and renovating the family's formerly clutter-choked house.

Here’s the mirror with Wonton. Now all I need is a heavy duty picture hook and a handyman.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Polka Dot Frenzy at PBTeen

The folks at Pottery Barn Teen have gone polka dot crazy, and we love it! They have a full, charming selection of sheets, towels, curtains, pillows, etc. in appealing colors and different sizes of dots. (If you want to see the whole polka dot lineup of linens, you can do so here.)

But look at what else there is! Polka dot drawer pulls:
and insulated lunch bags:

and flat irons:

and blow dryers:

even office chairs:

and lamps, in which the shades are one kind of polka dot and the bases another:

Pure adorableness. Thank you, Pottery Barn, for feeding our need for dots!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Favorite Store-Bought Cake

By now you probably know my favorite home-made cake is the fabulous chocolate Mrs. Abernathy's Cake. It's been a part of my family's celebrations for longer than I've been alive.

But when it comes to store-bought cake, there's only one I ever want. It's bright green. It's ridiculously expensive, when bought by the slice, and ridiculously dangerous, when bought whole (so many calories in such a small, pink box!)

It's a bit of Heaven, and it's called Princess Cake. Other places may make it, but for my money, the best is Viktor Bene's Bakery, conveniently located inside the grocery store closest to my home.

Mama mia, this stuff is fabulous. A sponge cake layer, topped with raspberry jelly, topped with a second sponge cake layer, topped with vanilla custard, topped with whipped cream, topped with a third sponge cake layer! And the entire thing is encased in a smooth, seductive coat of the most delicious, bright-green marzipan. And then dusted with powdered sugar, for good measure.

Sometimes you just have to step back and admire the wonderfulness. And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get a fork!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Anyone interested in eating a poop cupcake? What if I told you it was a ghiradelli chocolate cake with cayenne cinnamon frosting and marzipan flies? Truthfully, it sounds good to me. And really, who said cupcakes had to be cute? These are kinda gross but make me laugh. And I'm sure they'd taste delicious.

These "crapcakes" come from the San Francisco bakery Cynically Delicious. I found them through Cakespy, Seattle blogger and artist extraordinaire, who saw them at the Renegade Craft Fair. Other flavors showcased there included the MJ (vanilla outside with chocolate inside), the Fuzzy Navel (peach cake with champagne frosting), and the Slumdog Selleck (chai cake, cardamom frosting, and the host's iconic mustache made out of chocolate).

Definitely something to keep in mind, should my family ever open the bakery we're always dreaming about: not all pastries have to be cute or pretty or elegant. Sometimes just plain silly wins the day. You can bet that whimsical polka dot cupcakes would be one of our specialties. :)

We live here

Here are a couple of the photos, but really, click the link...they are all breathtaking.

Four Corners, USA

Kauai, Hawaii

Black Rock Desert, Nevada

Cappadocia, Turkey



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