Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Geography of Bliss

I finished The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner the other day. It's non-fiction and a pretty fast read, but I really enjoyed it.

I was wandering through Powells about a month ago looking for a new book when I came across this one. I may have been feeling a little down lately, so a travel book about happiness caught my attention.

The book chronicles Weiner's travels to about 10 different countries that score highest or lowest on a "happiness scale." He visits them and spends a chapter mulling on what makes their culture happy, or unhappy. The very nature of the book demands that can't spend too much time in every place, so it's not in-depth research or anything--more like what he noticed when he was there. Very subjective, but still interesting.

There were too many countries for me to comment on all of them, but one that really stood out to me was Iceland.

Iceland has always fascinated me, and it always stays high on my list of places to go. Why? I don't know! A dark, icy, cold island--why visit? I think that's part of the allure. The whole island is still alive, with volcanoes blaring and earth shifting, and an entire half of the year where the sun doesn't come out. There's something fascinating about that fact that people have survived for centuries in such a harsh climate.

"Theories abound as to why cold or temperate climates produce happier people than warm, tropical ones. My favorite theory is the Get-Along-Or-Die Theory. In warm places, this theory states, life is too easy; your next meal simply falls from a coconut tree. Cooperation with others in optional. In colder places, though, cooperation is mandatory. Everyone must work together to ensure a good harvest or a hearty haul of cod. Or everyone dies. Together.
 ...We humans need each other, so we cooperate--for purely selfish reasons at first. At some point, though, the needing fades and all that remains is the cooperation. We help each other because we can, or because it makes us feel good, not because we're counting on some future payback. There is a word for this: love.

Another thing I loved is that Iceland isn't afraid of failure, on an individual or a national level: "There's no one on the island telling them they're not good enough, so they just go ahead and paint and sing and write. One result of this freewheeling attitude is that Icelanders produce a lot of crap. They're the first to admit it. But crap plays an important role in the art world: it's fertilizer."

There were lots of other things, too, but I'll stop there. It was a good book to mull over--I'm not sure it made me happier immediately, but I felt like it was good to think about.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mossy Green Beignet Skirt

I did it! I finished my Beignet skirt, my first swing at Colette Patterns. I have to say, I feel like this is my best, most polished work yet. This came with a lot of firsts, too--buttonholes, buttons, a lining, and a blind hem. All are now safely tucked away in my brain as certified knowledge. Of all my sewing projects, this one had the least amount of "Whoopsies! ....oh, well" going on, which is very encouraging. Not to say I didn't mess up, because it's not perfect... but it's hard to tell that. All the pieces fit together, it fits me wonderfully, and I just love how the leather buttons look. So very classy! And, it has pockets. Love it, love it. I'm quite happy that the pockets are laying nice and flat--you can't even tell they're there!

I am so happy with it! Sometimes when I wear things I made, I get compliments, and when that happens I can't help but blurting out "ThankyouImadeit!!!!" in a loud voice followed by a goofy grin. Then I feel bashful because it practically forces people to act impressed whether they want to or not. I'm working on being a bit more humble. Someday. :)
But that's okay. Because I really am happy with it. And more than a little proud, too.

 I have two other Colette Patterns in my sewing to-do list now. Both of them are dresses, and both are a bit more intimidating to me. So I might try something easier next, then tackle another one. The pattern itself was so nice to work with--really clear instructions, and illustrations, it all made it go so much easier.
I feel ready for spring now! The trees are blooming, and daffodils are popping up!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Trip of Snowshoeing

Jesse's mom bought us snowshoes last October. Last December, we used them to walk up the street after the big snowstorm. Yesterday was the first time we'd put them on since then, and the first "real" snowshoeing adventure.
The weather was gorgeous--about 60 degrees in Portland, but it got chillier as we drove up Mt. Hood, and a bit snowier (luckily). I was afraid we wouldn't find any snow at all, but it seemed like just as we turned into the trailhead, it was there. Just waiting for us. And the sun was shining for us, and little birdies were chirping, and Mt Hood was beaming it's white smile at us... okay, it didn't really smile. Obviously. But it was pretty close, I think.

It really was a gorgeous day, perfect to try out our snowshoes. If we were completely honest, we probably didn't really need them. But it would have been silly to drive all that way to go snowshoeing, and then not go snowshoeing. So we strapped them on anyway.

We did a 5 mile loop around Trillium Lake, just at the base of Mt Hood. It's a popular hike because it's so easy to drive to, and it's postcard-like views. Jesse brought a pack, and we picnicked on munchies halfway through while we enjoyed the view.

First Lesson: Snowshoeing is a workout. Second Lesson: Fresh air and sunshine is a nice thing to experience. Third Lesson: Bring a bottle opener to open bottles.

Now we've had winter's last hurrah, and I'm ready for Spring! I spied some cherry blossom trees blooming on our way back into town, so now I have my eye out. Bring it on!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day Events

We had a pretty low-key Valentine's Day here. It was Sunday, but since I had to work, Jesse took it upon himself to cook me an amazing dinner. This took days in the making, and required him to hide things in the freezer, go grocery shopping on the sly, and in general sneak around and ban me from the apartment.

My present also took a lot of sneakiness, but less so, because Jesse doesn't usually look in my sewing stash, so I figured I was safe even if I left it out in plain view. I like to take the road that if I don't tell him there's a surprise, he won't even pay attention if I leave things in obvious places. Whereas if he tells me not to look in the fridge, it takes all my strength not to look in the fridge. (I didn't. It was a pleasant surprise.)

So, without further ado, here are our respective Valentine's Day surprises. One of Jesse's presents to me:
This is Baked Alaska, in it's natural habitat, the freezer.  This view allows you to see the layers inside: we have chocolate cake, then 3 layers of ice cream (Hagen Daz), topped with a layer of whipped meringue, and finally baked in the oven for a few minutes to turn the meringue night and toasty. When sliced, this is topped by homemade fudge sauce. The whole thing is, in a word, heavenly. And amazing. Delicious. Wonderful. Worthy-of-being-paid-large-sums-for. The rest of the meal was just as good, but really, everything pales in comparison to this.

And my present to Jesse:

Sorry it's sideways. I can't figure out how to turn it around. Anyway, since it's expensive to buy nice lingerie, I figured I could just whip some up! This babydoll cami turned out pretty well. I ripped the lace and the button placket from an old shirt, so the buttons go all the way up the side. It's a little loose, so it really needs straps. (But honestly, it's not like it really needs to stay up anyway. Tee hee.) This is the rest of the fabric I used for my previous pretty blouse, and I'm quite happy with how it was used. I tried to make undies to go with it, but that was a complete disaster. 

This worked out, though. I won't say much more, except that it was pretty well received.  :)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Twisty Side of Life

Jesse, in all his baking fervor, tackled pretzels last week.


Or maybe they tackled him... Either way, he managed to twist his way to a delicious browned, firm crust with yeasty goodness inside. Delicious!

Here they are before going into the oven, and that was the last picture I got before we gobbled them all up. A little salt on top, a little mustard, and they were perfect (I won't mention the fact that they stuck to the pan horribly because I didn't grease it enough...).
Twisty is a good illustration of how I've been feeling about life lately. Twisty, perhaps a little restless or unsatisfied... who knows how to describe it. But it's amazing how a little unhappines can affect all sorts of things in your life. I've been reading a lot of craft blogs, and trying to sew, which is a great outlet for my creativity drive, but at the end of the day it just leaves me wanting more. Then I look at all the stores on Etsy, all the people creating whole clothing lines on Burda Style, and blogs with successful women behind them who've created careers out of their crafty drives. It leaves me unhappy.

I want so bad to create that for myself, too, but...but, but, but. Always a but. Not enough money, time, talent, direction. There's a lot in my way, most of all the fact that I have no clear vision for what I actually want. I want to earn money doing the things I love to do. I have idea how to do that, or what it is, exactly, that I love to do.

Twisty, twisty. Excuses, excuses. For now, I'll keep working on my skirt.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My guy plays the mandolin

Yup, it's true. He bought an old mandolin off Craigslist, re-strung and fixed it, and now he strums the tunes of a mandolin to my ears.
What a guy he is.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Contemplation of a Dress

I've been eying this dress at Anthropologie (of course) lately, because not only do I quite like it, but I think there's a good chance that I could re-create it. It's called the Sky Bridge Dress.

In looking at it, it seems like it's just a simple skirt that's gathered on both ends, then a simple triangular v-neck bodice. It seems like it should be simple. I'm still convincing myself of this, but once I get there I might try to re-create it. It's on sale at Anthropologie right now, for $78. Depending on the fabric I find, I feel confident I could pull that off for $30, tops. It's on my list for sure--we'll see when I get to it.
Another thing on my list is re-working some old clothes from my closet. There are two types of clothes you get rid of: one that you finally decide the color is just not good on you, and one that despite how much you love the color, you finally realize the fit/style is all wrong. The first kind is hard to be recycled without massive dyeing projects, but the second is a new outfit just waiting to happen. I've already culled a few options from my closet and come out with some very nice fabrics--a lot of baggy dresses or old shirts that I've just gotten tired of. So I'm mulling over projects with those.

For right now though, I've just started this skirt from Colette Patterns:


It might take me awhile, but I love it so much already! I have a fantastic green linen, so I can't wait. It'll be the perfect happy spring skirt!

a little ridiculous, old-school, and oh so stylish