Friday, April 26, 2013

Garden Upgrade

For the past several years, Robb and I have had this thing where we attempt to do a complete garden overhaul in one day. It's a totally exhausting pain in the ass that usually begins with high spirits and a trip to Home Depot! We then haul ten bags of soil and manure into the backyard (along with a ton of other crap we decided we HAD to have), and we spend the afternoon tilling all of the soil and planting every last seedling...all in a day. Oh, and it's usually Memorial Day weekend, so it's hot. Why do we do that? 

Last week, however, it became evident that we could do things a little differently. That, in fact, we could till maybe one little section of the yard and plant pole beans (because April is, in fact, when they should be planted). Or that we could plant lettuce in a few planters. That we could build shelves and a fence. Why wait till a sweltering Saturday in May when we can be tilling and building in the cool of a 55-degree afternoon?

And then, I saw this thing on Pinterest. And this is why I love Pinterest. Because you can pin something cool and then remember later that you want to make it and then you have the link right there that tells you how to do it and you just do it. The thing I wanted to make? This hanging plant shelf. So simple! Just a plank of wood tied up by rope! A baby could make this.
However, I did need the wood. (And here's where it gets sort of cosmically strange and Robb starts to roll his eyes.) One morning last week I thought to myself, I bet I'll find the wood I need on the street today. And then sure enough, after work, I was walking by Robb's bar and there was this big old 5-foot long beautiful plank of wood sitting outside. I picked it up and dragged it into the bar (and then Robb rode it home on his bike later, which looked sort of amazing). And then I shit you not, about 15 minutes after I found the wood, on the very same walk home, I found these trellises above sitting on my street a few doors down. Fences!, I thought, and then I picked up the whole bunch of them and walked them home. You guys, there was a lot of garden kismet happening that night. And here's what we did with it.
So, we untangled the trellises and laid them on their sides, and then we attached posts to each trellis edge so that we could wedge them into the ground to make a big, sturdy fence. Gone was the sweet (yet decidedly ineffective) little lattice fence we made last summer. Our new fence feels fancy and official, as though we have a serious homestead going on. I want to get horses now, or maybe goats.
For the hanging plant shelf, my vision was to install it under the overhang right outside of our kitchen door and have it be a home for the herb garden. In summers past, the herb garden has lived deep in the yard, so if you're cooking pasta for dinner and want to grab a handful of basil, you need to put on shoes, grab a flashlight, and hope you don't step in dog poop. But now, these perils no longer haunt us! The herbs are right outside the door, enabling us to cook barefoot once again. To hang the shelf, Robb simply filed some grooves at two ends of the plank so the rope can grip it, and then we looped the ropes through the supporting structure of the overhang. Done. I love it.

At that point, we made mojitos from our new mint plant and called it a day.
The next day, however, we couldn't resist going out to buy some flowers. Robb had a vision. Inspired by the hanging herb shelf, he decided he wanted to take a couple long pieces of wood that had been kicking around in our yard and hang those, too, making narrow little shelves. Along these shelves, we potted tons of individual little flowers. This fence was once where we propped up old, splintery wood. Now it is a haven for marigolds!
And that, my friends, is where we stopped. We built fences, hung shelves, potted some flowers, and we were done. Tomatoes and peppers will come another Saturday, probably in a few weeks. And someday we might get around to patching the lawn. But for now, I'm liking this plan of spreading out the upgrades. Of getting inspired but not burning out. And my favorite part of all? Walking down the street holding an armful of flowers, with a big, bright Gerbera daisy tucked behind my ear. That, I must say, is my happy place. Me on Sunday afternoon with all the hopefulness of spring in my arms.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Top, New Day

You know how you sometimes hear people say things like "stay in the moment"? Or "enjoy the moment"? Or "savor the moment"? These people are usually yoga teachers or life coaches or a meme on Facebook or Oprah or your aunt on your wedding day. And you know they mean well, and you know that they're totally right. Yes! You say to yourself. I shall live today in the moment! And then you proceed to spend much of the rest of the day rummaging through moments in the past or daydreaming about moments in the future. 

Well, that's how I do it anyway.

I've actually never really understood how I'm supposed to go about being "in the moment." Is there a trick or a breathing exercise I can do? Perhaps a vitamin? Recently, I caught myself over the course of a single day doing the exact opposite of what it probably means to live in the moment. I started the day by waking up, wishing I could stay in bed longer, and then I checked my work email on my phone as I walked to work (um, you know you're going to work...where you will be looking at email all day, right?), and then the whole time I was at work, I was wishing that I could leave and go to my yoga class after work, and then the second my yoga class got challenging, I found myself daydreaming about the tall glass of soda water with a splash of cranberry that I would have at Robb's bar after class, and then the whole way to the bar, where I would finally get my soda water, I felt myself impatiently planning what I would have for dinner, and then on the way home to cook dinner, I ate a whole bag of Pirate's Booty, unable to wait until I got home to start eating, and then I got home and cooked dinner and looked at my iPhone the whole time I ate it, even though a show was on TV (a show I LIKE, at that), and then I delayed going to bed until way late, because now, ironically, I did not want to go to sleep, even though at the beginning of the day, all I wanted in the world was to stay asleep.

Not. In. The. Moment. People.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because this top up here, the one I'm wearing above...this top is the one thing I can say I did lately that was made "in the moment."
Do you ever have fabric laying around that's burning a hole in your pocket? And then the second you figure out how you want to use it, it's like OH MY GOD I HAVE TO MAKE THAT RIGHT NOW. That was how I felt about this top. I was sitting at home on a Thursday night, the paper pattern was already cut out in my size, and there was this coral shot cotton, washed and folded on top of my printer. (Because I'm messy and sometimes things just sit on the printer.) Before I knew it, I had pulled out the cutting mat and the tailor's chalk, the fancy scissors and the rotary cutter, the gridded ruler and the measuring tape. Anthony Bourdain talked about the Philippines in the background and I missed the whole thing. Snip snip snip, happily I cut out the pattern. (Also, I apparently don't ever actually watch TV.)
And what is this pattern, you ask? Well, I'm afraid it's a secret. For the next six months anyway. It's a pattern that the fabulous Jenny Gordy of Wiksten designed for a new book that Lena Corwin is writing and that I am editing. The pattern is one of those maddeningly simple affairs where you literally take two of your own measurements (waist and hip), do just the tiniest bit of math, and then sketch out your own pattern sheet drawn to those dimensions. I love these kinds of patterns. They're so elegant in their simplicity, and yet they require you to slow down a bit and sew very careful seams. Straight seams, in this project, are crucial.  

The first night, I cut out the fabric (one hour). The next night, I sewed the straps, the armholes and neckline, and joined the front and back into one piece (two hours). The next day, I added the drawstring and hemmed the bottom, and I was done (one hour). 
Then, though it was a chilly Sunday, I put on the top and wore it out...with a sweater and a jacket. And though most of it was covered up, I knew that I was wearing my new favorite creation. I looked down at my lap and admired the coral shot cotton, faintly glimmering in the sun. Oh, it feels good to want to do something and enjoy doing it while you're doing it. Let that be a lesson to me (especially since, just moments ago, I got distracted while thinking about making a bowl of popcorn and turning on Project Runway). There is something to be said about losing yourself in what you're making, and not wanting to be any other place in the world while you're making it.


Friday, April 12, 2013

One Year Later

For those who are curious about why people would spend time knitting sweaters for babies, I am here to tell you why. This is why. This little girl right here. And actually, all little girls everywhere. And little boys, too. Every single stitch is worth it if only for the moment when your best girlfriend sends a photo over the great divide of our nation, which bounces up to a satellite and lands inside of your phone, which makes a little buzz as it bounces against your desk at work while you're eating a burrito bowl, and you look at the picture and let your face spread into the widest grin you can imagine.

One year ago, I had just begun knitting this sweater for baby Frida. Robb and I had returned from a trip to Spain and I came back to normal life with renewed vigor. I bought a skein of superwash Merino on my way home from work and squeezed it on the subway, thinking about Megan, then seven months pregnant, wondering how this one little squishy ball of yarn could possibly work up into a whole sweater. It was springtime and I could not wait to start knitting. And when I wrote this post a year ago on the day that Frida was born, I could only then just barely imagine her existence. I knew she no longer lived inside Megan, but I had not yet met her. I had no idea she was going to have the most amused smile of any child I've ever met--everything is riotously hilarious to her--and that her eyes would squint like Popeye when she's happy. I had no way of knowing she would like Mary Poppins so much, and at such a young age. And I had no clue that she would like to be carried in a harness slung across Megan's chest, but that she prefers to be facing out, examining the world as they walk together. It's amazing how much you can learn in a year.

I was talking with my friend Deb last night about how all of our little choices lead to bigger ones, and how, over time, you can see them shaping your life. Deciding to turn off the television, for instance, is a small thing, but it is also an act of creative defiance. Not that I don't like TV! Sometimes after a long day at work it is the best thing in the world. But most of the time when the TV is on, it's because I'm bored, not because I'm exhausted, and there really are better ways I could be using my time. I feel the same way about playing solitaire on my phone--a game I have had addictive problems with my entire life. It's a time killer, it's what I do when I feel like fidgeting and I don't feel like using my brain. I would be better off gazing at stars, or even removing pills from a sweater, cutting my toenails, opening the mail, eating popcorn, whatever. But killing time? Oh, what a dreadful phrase.

Last year at this time when I came home from Spain, I made two other choices in addition to starting Frida's sweater: I signed up for an 8-week pottery class and I started a regular yoga practice. Are either of these things miraculous in their own right? Well, no. Not at all actually. Am I now planning to become a professional potter or a yoga instructor? Nope! Not in a million years. But what did happen as a result of these choices were two things:
1) The yoga classes reminded me that I am mortal and that I should probably take care of the one precious, wild, and unpredictable body that I have. I don't always know what's going on in there, and I certainly don't know when it's going away, so I guess it is my duty to do some maintenance. But the best part is that, one year later, I see that it's not just a phase. I think that (gasp!) I may have actually changed my life. (And for a person who hasn't exercised regularly since she was a sophomore in high school, this is a fairly mindblowing notion.)
2) The pottery class reminded me how good it felt to be creative in a new way, to experiment with a craft in which I was not necessarily good. Like, at all. But more importantly, it proved to me that I have extra time in my life to be creative. When the 8-week class was over, I didn't sign up for another one. But I did decide to devote time each week to writing. Because if I had time to devote to a craft I wasn't necessarily passionate about (or even good at, for that matter), why not instead use that time to focus on a craft that I am passionate about?

See, things change. This is one year in which I can look back and see a marked difference between where I was then and where I am now. This year did not blend and blur. Rather, it meandered forward, getting me closer to becoming the person I want to be (or perhaps the person I have always been?). And I'm not positive, but I have a funny feeling Megan could say the same thing. And Frida? Well, she wasn't even a person a year ago! So she's definitely becoming the person she wants to be (or, perhaps, that she has always been). But it's amazing, isn't it? How much can change in just a year.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sometimes You Make Cookies

"I went into the kitchen. I love food. The clarity of it, the direct pleasure. I love it simple, absolutely fresh and freshly cooked. At my worst, like now, when nothing makes sense to myself, I'll cook something as a way of forcing order back into chaos. As a way of re-establishing myself, at least in this one thing. It steadies my hands." --From The PowerBook by Jeanette Winterson 

I made these cookies the weekend before last. It was a Friday and I left work knowing that I was going home angry. I was going home disappointed. It's been a rough couple of weeks. And though I read myriad blogs where the author bares her soul, telling the world every last bloody detail of her latest crisis, I'm not going to do that here. And it's beside the point really. Here are the two things you need to know: 1) I recently made myself vulnerable in a creative pursuit and came up short. 2) I am a little lost right now.

These things are okay. I will be okay. We will all be okay. But in those moments when you are processing it all and searching for your place in the universe, it is completely normal to not feel okay. And that is when you bake cookies. 

As I packed up my bag to leave work that Friday, I decided I wanted something complicated I could sink my teeth into. Something I could control, that I could do slowly and precisely. And when I was done, I wanted to have something I could devour in the fattiest of ways. I wanted to execute perfectly and make myself sick. Which was how I wound up spending three days making homemade Samoa Girlscout cookies, which are photographed beautifully along with the recipe at Just a Taste.

Day 1: I made the cookie dough on Friday night after I finished dinner. It's a simple shortbread, but even that has many steps. There is the sifting and measuring and mixing, and then you need to make  two neat balls and wrap them up in plastic. (I wrapped mine twice, not wanting the spices from the leftover Indian food to waft their way into the dough.) I drank a glass of wine and let an hour pass. I changed into my pajamas and then I rolled out the dough, thin as can be without being too thin. I used a pint glass to punch out the large circles, and a smaller cookie cutter to remove the middle. Collect the scraps to make a new ball, roll it out, punch and repeat--I moved like a machine, letting flour dust the front of my yoga pants as I leaned against the counter. When the cookies came out of the oven I decided I was tired and went to bed.

Day 2: I woke up Saturday morning and made an iced coffee. Today will be better, I said, and I sprinkled coconut onto a cookie sheet to toast. But the caramel candies took a long time to melt down and I started to lose my patience. Not that there was anywhere I needed to be or anything else I needed to be doing. Sometimes, I think, you just get tired of stirring. But they did melt, and when that happened, I painted caramel onto each cookie with a spoon--the binder, I am told, that keeps the topping from falling off--and to the rest of the caramel I added the coconut, creating a sticky clumpy mixture that burned my hands as I pressed it onto each cookie's surface. But there's no other way to do it, really. You have to pick up that mixture before it hardens and press down firmly. You have to show that cookie who is boss. 

Exhausted from my efforts, my husband and I rode our bikes eight whole blocks to a place called the Spritzenhaus, where we drank beer, ate hot pretzels, and played Jenga. Later we went home and tried to melt down the chocolate, but it buckled up on us. A whole bag of chocolate chips ruined on a Saturday afternoon. (Hint: Don't use a double-boiler when drunk.)

Day 3: I woke up and could not believe those cookies were still sitting on my counter. I pulled boots over my yoga pants and put on a long coat, and then I went to the store to buy more chocolate, which I melted in the microwave thank you very much. We had a friend coming over and I wanted to force cookies on him--eat the damn things, get them out of this house. And so I held them by their crispy cookie sides and dunked their bottoms in chocolate, letting it harden for an hour before I flipped them over and drizzled more chocolate across the top. 

Oh, the things we'll do to force order back into chaos, as Ms. Winterson so wonderfully puts it. (Which makes me wonder, in fact, which way she actually means it. Does she want to take an orderly situation and make it more chaotic? Or does she want to force chaos into an orderly state? Knowing Jeanette Winterson, this ambiguity was intentional.)

All I know is that when you undertake a project of this magnitude--during Girlscout cookie season, no less, when the factory-made versions are plentiful--I do believe it is a testament to how far you will go to distract yourself, calm yourself, and find yourself. And finally, hopefully, dust the flour off your yoga pants and move on.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Brunch and Meditation

After last week's post on meditation (and giant pillows), I had a sudden flashback to something I had written years ago. It was buried within a larger piece called "30 Thoughts" in which I challenged myself to write for 30 days on topics for which I felt passionately--be it love or loathing, greatest hopes and fears. This list included everything from fruit trees to bed bugs, from my fear of the sun one day exploding to my unquenchable interest in cooking shows. One of the topics I wrote about was brunch, and how much I love the act of having brunch with friends. But as time has gone on, I realize that what I really liked about the piece was the conversation I documented that day, and how interesting it is to go back in time and see my thoughts on meditation, especially now that I have actually been trying meditation for myself (day13!). Don't you love to go back in time and see how your fears have evolved? While I am still leery of the snake metaphor (read will make sense), I do feel much more open to seeking out a calm place inside of myself, one that is free from self-doubt and anxiety, as Nicole so eloquently put it. And so, my thanks go out to Nicole for that conversation...and Elizabeth Gilbert for sparking our snarky commentary, and Oprah and Deepak for providing a script, and Melanie for introducing me to the 21-day challenge in the first place. Each time I close my eyes, I am sure that I am living my life a little bit better. And I am clearly sailing forward in good company, with those who also want to see all that is beautiful in the world.

Brunch - November 2009
Going out to brunch when you didn’t go out the night before is a beautiful beautiful thing. First of all, you slept well. You may have even slept for eleven hours. And oh, does that ever feel good. It's always nice if one person in your brunch group went out the night before, as she may have interesting stories to tell over brunch, and then you can enjoy not only feeling healthy and well-rested, but also up to date on all of the good gossip. But my favorite combination is brunch with just one other person who also slept for eleven hours and who also feels GREAT. It makes the coffee tastes better, and the Bloody Mary a bit spicier, and that’s all before you even start talking. And that really is the best thing about brunch: what you talk about. Brunch is the perfect time to dream, to ruminate, to cover the big stuff and feel like you actually got a satisfying answer. 

Rather than try to describe a typical brunch conversation, I will instead list the topics that Nicole and I covered today:
1)    Her Halloween party, and where all the booze could have possibly gone.
2)    Robb’s adorable trait of hording candy and any other goods for which he has great love and feels protective.
3)    Dreams: what we dreamed about recently and what we thematically dream about over and over. Nicole frequently dreams that she is getting angry at loved ones as they stay remarkably calm. She also has dreamed more than once that she was driving a car from the backseat. I dream quite often about parties where everyone I have ever known is in attendance. I dream most frequently about public transportation (subways, buses, airports) and all the ways in which transportation goes wrong. It is important to note that I rarely arrive at the place I am intending to go.
4)    Friendships that you accidentally ended and how you can possibly reopen the door to that friendship. Who is at fault? And is it worth it to be friends with these people again?
5)    At this point, Nicole stopped talking mid-sentence and saw that her ex-boyfriend was sitting at the end of the counter. He looked flummoxed, as he always looks. Nicole was very sweet and said hello, and he mumbled some words that I didn’t hear.
6)    We talked about Eat, Pray, Love, a book that she seemed to loathe and that I had been finding quite delightful. Though I always have a certain hesitation for books that are gigantically enormous New York Times bestsellers. If I were to write a book, I might be skeptical of my sincerity were it to hit the top-ten. I’d feel much more authentic in the top-200 zone. Nicole says that her primary issue with the book is that the author seems manipulative—that she seems to have spun the story to back up her bad behavior and that rather than embracing herself as an imperfect human, she turns herself somehow into a victim and is too self-congratulatory about her “crazy” life choices she is making. I say that I didn’t like it when she said she wasn’t worried about making friends in Italy because she makes friends everywhere she goes. And we both agree that as a reader you find yourself thinking “well it must be nice to be you.” I point out that I am sincerely enjoying the liveliness of her writing. Though, Nicole countered, she seems like she’s exaggerating. To which I mused, I think it would be hard to write a candid, soul-searching unbiased memoir when you have already been paid the advance. The pressure to “entertain” must be awfully compromising.
7)    I told Nicole that I am almost as scared to go to outer space as I am to enter the depths of my mind through meditation. And that I don’t see how it sounds appealing to have a snake coiled at the base of my spine which crawls through my vertebrae and explodes through the top of my head as God enters my body in the form of a beautiful blue light. I think that this sounds very scary indeed. Nicole explains to me that this is supposed to be the epitome of calmness. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a moment in your life that is not filled with self-doubt and anxiety? A moment where you are just able to see all of your inner beauty and all that is beautiful in this world? Sure, I say, but it still sounds scary. And I don’t see why it has to be a snake.
8)    I mean to ask Nicole at this point how many people I can bring to watch me try on wedding dresses the next weekend. But just at that moment, her ex's friend (and a girl Nicole was good friends with while she was dating the guy) approaches us and asks if we’d like to get a Bloody Mary after we finish brunch. Nicole agrees, then realizes her ex will be going, too. I offer my services as wingman, which she declines. And so I leave them to sort that mess out and walk home. I call Morgan on the way to double-check that I did indeed ask her to be a bridesmaid. She says yes, and we chat for a minute. It is Saturday in November, it’s bright and cold. I try to walk on the sunny side of the street, but at 2 pm, there’s not really direct sun on either side. I hang up when my hand gets too cold. I come into the house, make a pot of coffee, and write this.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Giant Pillows

I am trying very hard to bring more balance into my life these days. Being a Libra and all, I'm already reasonably balanced when it comes to some things. I'm pretty good at not thinking about work when I'm not at work. And I'm okay at not thinking about my personal life when I am at my desk. Throughout the course of a week, I flutter between nights home in my pajamas, nights out with friends and too much wine, and nights spent working my ass off at Bikram yoga. But still, there are always ways we can work out the kinks, straighten our postures, and better integrate our yin and our yang. I worry too much about the future, for instance. I can literally feel myself drop out of "the moment" sometimes, obsessing over the past. Sometimes I audibly sigh in yoga when I'm supposed to be quietly breathing through my nose. Also, I'm not great at letting things roll off of me--once I'm upset, I tend to be upset for awhile.

In my aspirational quest to bring more balance into my life, I have embarked on two things this week, one a little more embarrassing than the other. The first is that I have started doing daily meditations with Oprah and Deepak. I know...go ahead, read that sentence over again. It's so new-agey/pop-pscyh, it kind of hurts. And is awesome. I love Deepak's pretty mumbling voice, the way his accent softens the vowels as he leads us into meditation, making a lengthy Sankrit word sound like it is one long uber-syllable. It is a 21-day challenge, and the purpose is to bring more unity between the mind and the body, helping our brains learn to listen to what our bodies are telling us and (eventually? I think?) heal ourselves with our minds. I don't know, I'm only on day 9. But I LOVE it. I've actually always wanted to try meditation, drawn to the idea of sitting quietly with nothing but your thoughts for 15 minutes a day. Whether you're trying to heal your body or bring balance to your life or find happiness or whatever, it doesn't really matter--what does matter is how fascinating those 15 minutes are each day. Sometimes I think of pickles. Sometimes my brain wanders to an obscure moment in the past. Sometimes I visualize a project I am ready to undertake. Sometimes I fall asleep (oops!). And sometimes I think of nothing at all. Ah, blissful nothingness. No matter what, I always open my eyes at the end and feel, well, peaceful. Capable. A little more patient. A little more willing to try again, even though I don't want to. And besides, if David Lynch has decided that meditation must be part of his daily practice, then there must be something to it, right?

The other thing I've done to bring balance into my life--and which, consequently, ties very well into a daily sitting-upright meditation practice--is to make these two giant pillows.

I didn't mean to make such giant pillows. I ordered them online at Target, and they arrived in this ginormous box a few days later. We needed new throw pillows for our couches, but holy cow, these are some THROW PILLOWS. They come in at 26 inches, and they are truly a delight.

When it came to making pillowcases for these monsters, like most things in life, I made this project much harder than it needed to be. I first pieced together a pillow front and back to match the exact dimensions of the pillow. But when I slipped the completed pillowcases over the inserts, they were sad and droopy...way too big. It was through this process of trial and error that I discovered I prefer my pillows to be nice and snug, extra plush, with just a little bit of bounce to it. If you want to make some great, over-stuffed pillows of your own, I've included instructions below. Minimal sewing skills required! Relaxing satisfaction guaranteed! Just ask Camper, who likes to play "mountain goat" over the mammoth pillows in order to get to his favorite spot at the window, where he practices his own form of meditation while watching pedestrians go by.

To Make These Giant Pillows:
You'll need pillow inserts, fabric, scissors, measuring tape, thread, iron, pins, and a sewing machine.

Begin by measuring your pillow. Write those numbers down somewhere. Subtract two inches from your measurements to find out the size of the piece of fabric you should cut for your pillow front. (So, for instance, if your pillow is 26" x 26", you'll want your pillow front fabric to by 24" x 24".) 

For the back of the pillow, you'll want to cut two pieces of fabric so that you can make an overlapped opening--that way you can remove your pillow insert and wash the pillowcase, which is especially useful if your husband decides that the pillows are his favorite for napping and also likes to sit on them while eating ice cream. Your two pieces of fabric for the back should be the same height as the pillow front (24"), but widthwise they'll need to overlap by 4". To get this measurement, divide the pillow front width by half (12") and then add 4" to the width. So you'll have two pieces for the back that are 24" tall x 16" wide. 

Once you've cut out your fabric, you'll want to finish the opening of the pillow back. On one of your pillow back pieces, fold over one of the 16" edges about 1/4" to the wrong side and iron; then fold again 1/2" and iron. Pin the fold in place and sew. Repeat on the other pillow back piece.

Next, lay the pillow top fabric on the floor with the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric facing down. Lay the pillow back pieces on the pillow top piece with the RIGHT SIDE facing up. You want to align the edges of the front and back, and the two back pieces should overlap each other in the middle. Pin all around the edges, then sew around all four edges with a 3/8" seam allowance. Trim away excess fabric around all of the edges so your seam allowance is about 1/4", and then iron all of the seams open. 

Turn the pillowcase inside out and iron the edges again, making sure the seams lay nice and flat. Then sew all around the perimeter of the pillowcase again with a 1/2" seam allowance. (This is called a French Seam! You're neatly enclosing your seam allowances so there are no raw edges on the inside.)

Turn the pillowcase right side out and stuff with the pillow insert.

Place pillow on couch and meditate (optional).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Adventure Backpack

A couple months ago when I dyed my backback turquoise, I had a vision. It was me in cut-off jeans, hiking through an overgrown trail in the jungle. I imagined there would be boulders to sidestep and large, bushy jungle plants I'd have to push back with my forearms. I imagined that it would be hot and sticky, and that at the end of the trail would be something fabulous--a swimming hole with a gushing waterfall perhaps? A tall stand of trees in the midst of a rain forest? Or, perhaps a Mayan temple. Yes, a Mayan temple would work nicely.

It's funny how wrong it feels to wear a turquoise backpack with a black wool peacoat in the winter in New York City, compared to how right it feels to wear a turquoise backpack with cut-off shorts, a tank top, converse sneakers, a cowboy hat, and yes, even a bandanna tied around your neck. So I suppose that deep down when I picked my dye color, I had my trip to Mexico in mind. I was creating an Adventure Backpack! One that would serve me well while mounting hundreds of crooked hand-built steps to reach the top of a Mayan ruin. One that I wouldn't mind getting messy or sweaty. And in a color that goes well with the smells of sunblock, sweat, and possibly Pringles. 

It's funny, though...after sifting through all of the pictures taken by friends on this trip, I wasn't able to find a single straight-on shot of my turquoise Adventure Backpack. But I think these ones I did find get the point across. Oh, to be on an adventure again...till the next time, backpack, till the next time.