right under my nose

Friday, February 29, 2008

As New Yorkers, we take pride in being different from the rest of the country. We love our unique cafes, small restaurants, cute local boutiques. We love to hate Wal-Mart and all it signifies.
We are often hypocrites about our beliefs (we wear clothes by FiT students but buy our morning latte from Starbucks) but we like to think that we search and find the unique, the different, the quirky - that one thing that makes us stand out. We love to be able to tell a friend about that specialty store that sells a particular spice, or that new lounge that plays music no one has ever heard of yet.
It has taken me a while to appreciate what this city has to offer: sometimes it's overwhelming and most of the time it requires a fair amount of research to find exactly what I am looking for, but at least I know it's out there, just a subway ride (and sometimes a bus ride) away.
And sometimes, if you are really lucky, it's just a couple of blocks away!
I've been hoping to find a place to buy fabrics at a good price close to home. The garment/fashion district has so much to offer, but I don't always head into Manhattan on my weekend. Purl is, well, amazing, but slightly pricey and hence treated more like a rare treat than a regular shopping spot. And a recent discovery, the Brooklyn General Store (more drooling) is just a fifteen minute walk from home, but has a much larger selection of beautiful yarns than fabric (though what they have is darling and ever so slightly cheaper than purl).
A couple of weeks ago, on my way back from a trip to the
General Store, I walked into a thrift store. I'd seen Baltic Bazaar several times and I actually had walked into it before but I just don't remember it being what it is. In fact, thought it does sell some 2nd hand clothes and goods, it's not really a thrift store but rather - a FABRIC STORE!

Not a traditional one, that's for sure since it gets all its fabric donated to it from fabric stores in the city. The shop is part of the Baltic Street Mental Health Board, a non-profit that helps people recovering from mental illness to achieve successful and satisfying lives in the community. They sell most of their fabric by the pound and they have a huge and very mixed selection. So not only do you get to buy designer fabric for cheap, but you're also doing a good thing!!!! Plus there are buttons and notions and sewing classes and yarn!
Days after re-discovering Baltic Bazaar myself, I also saw this article in AT: New York. Did I mention I love AT? I do. I love AT.
And then I came across DIY City Mag - a new online
magazine all about craft and DIY and lo and behold, their first issue? IT'S ALL ABOUT NYC! I've been pouring over it (and yes, Baltic Bazaar is mentioned in there, twice) and I can't wait to go explore some of the stores they list. You can find out more about DIY City here.
I'm done talking about fabric now. Done. Promise.

better late than never...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

These coasters are in the mail! I am ever so slightly... ahem, late on the deadline I was given, mostly because I could not decide what type of coasters to make. I really wanted to make these calla coasters from purl bee, but my crocheting skills were just not up to par quite yet. They are on my to-do list though and since a good friend taught me just last night how to make rounds with crochet I think I will try my hand at them soon.
But back to these coasters - I ended up picking four small pattern fabrics that I really liked and making these simple quilted ones following the instructions from this book.
I really do like them a lot, and they were SO simple to make that I really think they are going to become a staple house warming gift for friends. Or for myself. And since they were so simple to put together I really have no excuse for the delay, but I hope I shall be forgiven nonetheless.

nineteen days

Sunday, February 24, 2008

***edited to add a screen grab of the new site***
Apparently I met leila in the flesh quite a few years back, when she was living in the Balkans and I was driving through Slovenia with my mother. We attended the same conference, though calling it that might conjure images of big hotels, with buffet breakfast and power point presentations. Actually, the conference took place in a small log cabin on the top of a mountain, in the middle of a forest that was completely covered in snow. It was absolutely magical and enchanted, and obviously freezing. Sadly, I don't remember meeting leila, but I know she doesn't hold it against me.
One day last year, as browsing a friends contacts on flickr, I fell in love. With leila's pictures, of course, and as a consequence, her blog. Since then we've become quite intertwined in each other's online existence, following each other's lives through our writing and encouraging our efforts in photography.
So you'll obviously understand that I am thrilled to be collaborating with leila on a short term photography project in the next couple of weeks.
Introducing...nineteen days.

Why nineteen days? Between March 2nd and March 20th, Baha'is around the world will be observing a period of fasting, during which we do not drink or eat from sunrise to sunset. To me the Fast is an incredibly inspiring, refreshing, spiritual and at times challenging period of every year.

The basic idea behind nineteen days is to share with each other one picture taken at/around our sunrise and one at/around our sunset - every day for those nineteen days. We will also be sharing some inspirational quotes and at times, our personal thoughts.
The blog world is brimming with collaborative photography projects, and I must say I've been inspired by each single one of them: 3191, Noticing Project, 44 times two. And leila and I have been extremely excited the past couple of days getting ready for this experiment, setting up the new blog and figuring out how it would work. EXCITED I TELL YOU. There were many emails back and forth featuring plenty of CAPS.

Our first post will be up on the night of March 2nd, but you can wonder over to nineteen days now and find out a little bit more about the project.
I do hope you will visit often during our short stint over there, and please share your thoughts with us - we'd love to hear from you! I will most definitely be reminding you about it later this week.

upside down adorable

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A weekend full of us making him repeat names, make animal noises and smile.
A weekend full of him making us laugh, run after him and keeping us up all night.

proven wrong

Friday, February 15, 2008

You can find interesting and inexpensive items in New York City thrift stores, unlike what I stated boldly a couple of weeks ago. Case in point? Two finds at the small Housing Works right by my home.
First off, this.

Ok, it really looks like this, but I was cleaning it, ok?

Mhhh, and it's still missing the cord because, well... it's soaking in hot water and soap. No further comment on this matter. I should also point out that we do not have a land line. So the phone is basically not going to be put to any actual use (well, apart from looking pretty which can be very useful indeed). And did I mention I am not sure it actually works? I can't test it because you see, I don't have a land line. Did I mention that? But it's so pretty! And blue! And it makes that nice old fashioned noise when you dial the numbers!

Speaking of pretty, would you like to come over for something to drink? I'd serve you up some home made lemonade in this...

I love the pattern on these glasses - unfortunately there were only two them left when I got to them.

with button and all...

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's done! I completed my first ever knitting project. I initially thought I wanted to make a scarf but then decided that I'd like rather have a neck warmer instead.

I was not being lazy, and I didn't get tired of the process, thank you very much, I just figured it would be nice to mix it up since I had just received that lovely scarf from Manijeh.
The whole thing was very simple, but it still presented plenty of challenges for a novice like me. I dropped a few stitches here and there and had to undo several rows as a consequence. I must have messed something up in the early stages as there is a distinct bump on one edge of it. I also forgot to account for enough yarn to cast off at the end, which meant I cast off all but the last three stitches and I was forced to re-trace my steps and scale back a few rows.
Creating a button hole was simple enough, thanks to this video from what is now one of my favorite new websites, VideoJug - they provide instructions for all manner of things. I am sure I will turn to it again in the future for assistance. And I love the button, which I picked up at my new favorite spot, the Brooklyn General Store.

ps: thank you to Nooshin for posing for me.

a fun to do list

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oh Internet, you sweet temptress. I keep stumbling and falling into your luring traps, creating lists (oh, beloved lists) of things I want to make, try, cook, see, read... and on and on. It is a never ending process of taking notes, bookmaking cute ideas to adapt and make my own. Here's a random selection of just a few things I want to try my hand at in the next couple of months...
  • Terrariums - perfect to bring some greenery and spring into our wintery living room. Look how pretty these ones are!
  • A cute little basket - one for me and one for Elizabeth, to hold our knitting projects by the couch.
  • A shopping bag like the one Elisa made using this knitting pattern from The Purl Bee (yes, it will require me learning how to knit - for real. Maybe some crafty friend will help me decipher the pattern).
  • An apron I promised to someone, and then one like this for his lovely wife and maybe one for me too!
  • Cute little owls, possibly stuffed with some cat nip to drive Brookie crazy. Again.
  • These baskets - perfect for storing items on my messy desk.
  • I have my coffee at home almost every morning, but wouldn't it be great to carry one of these coffee cozies in your bag and just whip them out on the odd occasion when you buy a hot drink on the go? How very environmentally conscious of me!
  • Hand carved stamps - imagine the possibilities. I went to Michael's last week but I couldn't find any rubber or carving tools. I might have to order online, or go to Pearl sometime soon.
  • With all this inspiration, I'll need some kind of board to put stuff up on - something like this. SO lovely. Here is one way to make something similar.
  • Mostly because I love the little pots they are made in, but I'd love to try making this dip.
  • And these dishtowels, to clean up any mess while I cook.
  • As we get ready for spring (yes, I know it's still a while off) wouldn't something like this cute cape be perfect for the warm weather? Maybe in a pretty soft colored, flowery print?
  • A gift for my sweetest nephew who is turning 4 at the end of March.
  • IKEA revisited -- to store jewelry, maybe?
  • A cover for my poor sewing machine, which is currently protected only by a pair of Salwars my sister sent me from India.
  • Speaking of covers, I need to make covers for 2 printers for some very special customers (Hi Sham! Hi Ash!)
  • Cherry tomatoes focaccia - need I say more?
  • A granny square blanket - I think many are quite tacky, but I love the crazy color combination of this one.
  • Coasters! I am actually working on some for a coaster swap I signed up for but these ones are darling - as soon as I get the crocheting thing sorted out.
  • I really want to get my hands on a Gocco printer. Look at all the cool stuff people make with it! I must start browsing ebay for one, but hey - if you have one and are looking to get rid of it, let me know!
  • Nutella Macarons! By the way, did you know that macarons and macaroons are two different things? Crazy things the internet will teach you. Crazy!
  • We have 6 of these IKEA mugs so this post by creative Italian blogger Anna got me thinking about how I can embellish mine. If only I could draw!

rainbows and boxes

Thursday, February 7, 2008

It was oddly calming to sort through piles of embroidery floss, winding the long strands around little plastic bobbins and then arranging them nicely into some kind of color scheme. I discovered that you don't actually have to order them exactly to enjoy the harmony of color, but you can always turn to a good book to help you figure out which color goes where if you really want to.

I have another muddled bundle left over from old cross stitch projects that I need to sort through but for some silly reason I once decided it would be a good idea to cut them into smaller pieces so now arranging them on the bobbins is quite annoying.

I started cross stitching and embroidering when I was younger, thanks to my aunt. She lived far away from us and we only saw her now and then, when they came to visit us in Italy or on our odd visit to the United States. She is an extremely talented quilter and crafter and my parents' home is filled with items she made for us. I remember receiving postal packages from her and my grandmother and it was always so exciting to come home from school to find a little yellow note in the mail box, telling us we had a package waiting for pick up at the main post office. We'd go there with mom in the afternoon after school, trying to get there before they closed at 4 o'clock. Waiting patiently in line for the older folks that were there to collect their pension, or pay their telephone bills. I have vague memories of running up and down a ramp outside the front of the building. When our turn finally came we'd hand the clerk our note, and she's pull out a big "quaderno" - a note book. She'd look for our name (it was always quite easy to spot the complicated Iranian name amongst all the common Italian names) and make us sign. Then she'd get off her chair, and go hunt in the back for our box. Sometimes it was small enough to slip through the slim slot in front of her, but more often than not it was so big she's have to use side door.
There were always the most wonderful and bizarre combination of treats in those boxes: hand made goodies, gobstoppers, cross stitch samplers and supplies, old photos, Hot Tamales, taco mix seasoning - all the kind of stuff you could never find in Italy.
All the gifts, the box, the packing paper and the packaging had a unique, particular smell. They smelled like America. To this day, every time I step off a plane returning from somewhere outside of the US I smell that same exact smell. I am not sure what it is, a medley of plastic, sugar and air conditioning maybe, but it immediately reminds me of those boxes, those gifts and all the love and joy they brought us from the other side of the ocean.

petit paquet

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Love through the mail from the Canadians. They know us too well.

And they decorated the packaging. which looks adorable even if some members of our household just carelessly ripped through it. Humph. I actually recovered the packaging from the garbage pile just in time to take some pictures of it.

Na'im&Shirin - I am surely enjoying a cuppa.

looking forward to April

Friday, February 1, 2008

I spend a good chunk of my blog-browsing time drolling over the amazing items that people seem to find while thrifting - great clothes, fabric, housewares, toys, records, shoes... you name it. Since I live in New York City you would think that I would have access to a zillion great places to go "thrifting". Sadly, I don't usually find that to be true. Maybe I just don't have what it takes to hunt through piles of things and spot hidden treasures. But I don't think that's really the problem. I strongly believe that in this eclectic, crazy city I live in all the good stuff is usually snapped up immediately and even if I were to find anything good, the seller usually knows it's good and as a consequence the mark up is pretty significant.
Needless to say I was very excited to hear back in November that one of my favorite Brooklyn sites was plotting to starts its own giant flea market! And they are teaming up with one of my all time favorite design sites - Design*Sponge. I don't know how affordable things will be (and this being nyc, chances are not very) but at the very least they seem to have a pretty amazing line up of vendors, perfect for browsing. They will be selling lot's of antiques and "old stuff" but also lot's of crafty goodness.
I love the packaging for these candles and soaps from SAIPUA:

Or this print from Jezebel:

Lena Corwin's adorable plate:

Alyssa Ettinger's pottery:

I am excited about so many more sellers, like this one - how cute are those clocks?
Or the adorable t-shirts from
GoodShapeDesign? The one with the tulips? YUM!
And did you know that mid-century Czech furniture design was so wonderful??
And how about this? And this? Oh yeah, and this? And one more!
And Lotta too!!!

Oh April - please come soon!