Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hiding from the heat

The heat wave continues. 105? I heard possibly it hit 107? Whatever, it is horrible. Days in a row. It hasn't been cooling off at night, so the mornings aren't even reasonably pleasant. My poor feet look like inflated surgical gloves. Cooking is out of the question. Watermelon, popsicles, salads. I've pulled the new rocking chair in front of the air conditioner in the studio, and just sit there and read. Why not write, you wonder? Why indeed. It seems like a reasonable thing to do when trapped in the house. I did read some of my new manuscript yesterday, but did not add to it. I've written some thank you notes though, and my hands go numb with each one. Awesome.

The studio is now de-cluttered (yay!) and even the laundry room! I can actually walk into it and get what I need right off the shelf, instead of standing near the door and leaning precariously over piles of suitcases and winter bedding and dog beds and bags of sell-back books. Of course, those bags of books are now just sitting by the front door. I wish I could snap my fingers and vanish them away to a library in need.

Planning to make an ice cream cake today for my mom's birthday. Lemon and blueberry, maybe? I have a cool-cucumber foot treatment and pedicure scheduled tomorrow, as well as a full re-pinkening of my head. Oh, we finally went to see Half-Blood Prince, and I really liked it. It was beautifully filmed (same D.P. as Amelie and Across the Universe). My only beef was that the majorly big thing that happens at the end wasn't nearly as impactful as it ought to have been. I remember when I read it I was shocked and kind of devastated, but when it happened in the movie, it was almost throw-away, a fumble of one of the series' most poignant and painful scenes. Too bad. As for things left out of the movie, it's been too long since I read the book for me to remember the details. Though . . . maybe I'll reread it now. I finished a good historical mystery last night and need to start something. Perhaps one of the dozens of baby books instead? Nah, I'll let all that stuff come as a surprise :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Waiting . . .

"Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or hatch."

- E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Monday, July 27, 2009

Heat wave

Ugh, the misery of heat. Portland usually has at least a few days a summer of yucky heat -- mid-90s and up -- though some summers it never manifests and I was hoping this would be one of those. No such luck. We're right in the middle of a string of 90-100 degree days, and I HATE IT. I know, many of you probably live in hotter places, but you also probably have central air. No one here does. Well, we did just have an a.c. installed in our bedroom, thank god, and we have one in the studio, which is where I will be today, still trying to de-clutter.

Agh, clutter. At what point do you just shrug and start tossing everything in big garbage bags? I mean, that's one way . . . Just toss it all. So many books to sell to Powell's and donate to libraries! I'm terrible at getting rid of books, but in our little house, there's just no way to keep them all. I must be ruthless, keep only the ones I love.

Speaking of books I love, I finally finished the Attolia trilogy by Meghan Whalen Turner. I don't know why I waited so long! I'd read The Thief last year and liked it a lot up to the ending when I suddenly loved it. I bought the remaining two books but they just sat there on the nightstand for ages. Well, I just read them in two days and WOW -- they're awesome. So full of intrigue and suspense and -- unexpectedly and quietly -- romance. I highly recommend them.

Okay, to work! To conquer the clutter. Cheers!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When folding laundry doesn't suck . . .

Question: When does folding laundry not suck?

Answer: When it's this cute:
It's been so much fun sorting through this freshly washed plethora of adorableness. Really, enough clothes for twelve baby girls! Opening gifts at the shower, I felt so greedy and hoggy. I kept telling myself, "It's not for me. It's okay. It's for Professor," because I felt so guilty about the quantity of loot!! This is just a little bit of it, and that stack of blankets? Just a portion!

I mentioned I would show off some of the amazing handmade stuff our super-talented friends gifted us with. Well, here's a little bit:

Does your baby have a plush chainsaw? I bet not. I bet Professor will be the only baby with one of these!
(Made by the daughter of Portland picture book illustrator Carolyn Digby Conahan, whose work I love. Here's the card Carolyn made us, which is so getting framed:
Ready? Errr . . . Well, we'll see! So very soon :-)
This totally awesome tiny pink skull sweater was and hat set was made by Heather, a blog friend I met for the first time in person when she drove all the way down from Canada for the shower! We first *met* when Heather made me this incredibly awesome gift which you might remember, completely blowing my mind, and have become friends via email, blog, and phone since. Well, this sweater is really only the tip of the iceberg of baby bounty that Heather brought down with her. Besides another gorgeous sweater, she also made a slew of snugly awesome swaddling blankets and cloths and bibs and MORE. I was - and AM - floored by the bounty! Here we are:

And look at THIS DRESS!!!
Oh my god. Love love love it. "Robots love me"!!! Here's another thing that no other baby in the world will have besides Professor :-) And the best part? Jim has a shirt that matches it!!! How cute are they going to be? Gee, I wonder if that will be photographed when the time comes. This was made by my dear friend Chary, who I met when we both used to sell our artwork at the Portland Saturday Market. Here she is:
Yes, that is a chick sitting on her head. Don't you have a chick on your head, and if not, why? And the necklace? That was a shower game. See, it's this giant ridiculous necklace made out of baby toys, and whenever someone said the word "cute" they had to wear it. So it went from person to person, and here it's Chary who's got it on. The little shirt she's holding up had just been painted by another crazily talented local crafting friend, Jenn (more later). Chary made Professor another dress, this one out of vintage fabric and for when she's bigger. It's the one on the left:
>So cute! (Yes, I'd have to wear the necklace for that!) Here, it's posing alongside a handmade dress my friend Lori found at a flea market in Provence, and a dress my sister got in Honduras a few weeks ago (right in the middle of the coup, no less). Oh my goodness, the cuteness! Can you handle it?

And there's more. For example:
These were made - I think - by Jenn, though it's possible they were made by her partner Jenny. Both of them are AMAZINGLY talented and make a bazillion awesome things from plush toys to lacquered coasters to clothes and purses and more more more, many of which can be purchased here or here and here. Wow. They also have the most adorable house and the most adorable mini chickens which, no shock, have an adorable house of their own.

Speaking of chickens, did you know Portland is the capital of urban chicken-keeping? Other crafty-goddess friend Maggie also keeps chickens (and also in an adorable coop that she and her boyfriend built out of salvage). Ducks, too! Maggie made Professor the most awesome of all mobiles, which I showed already, but here it is again:
You might have seen the incredible one-of-a-kind monkey-flower necklace Jim got from Maggie for me for my birthday last year (it's about a quarter of the way down the post).

Okay, I'm going to show off just one last gift. Here it is:

I loooovvvve this quilt, made by Kim (in the middle, below) who came all the way from Seattle with lovely SCBWI cohorts Jaime and Sara. Jim and I [heart] these ladies, and I didn't even know Kim was crafty! I knew she's really funny and that she's a writer, but not that she's a quilter. Aren't those fabrics incredible? And the colors are perfect for the nursery, which is fabulous because I haven't seen a lot of orange & turquoise baby stuff in stores. Stores? Bah! With friends like these, who needs stores? :-) I'm so lucky.

See why I felt so greedy and guilty at the shower? And that's only a fraction! Man, it's total cuteness overload.

Thank you, everybody!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the downstairs is finished!

The downstairs is done! Yay hallelujah!! Well, you know: "done." Air quotes. We didn't want to put all the same stuff on the walls, so there are some big empty spots waiting for paintings to be created to fit them -- Jim and I want to get some canvases and do a few paintings together. And we really want a new slipcover for the sofa, but that will have to wait. But basically, here's the living room with newly refinished floors and new paint:

Bright and airy. Nice. Here it is before:
For the record, I liked it then too :-)

We didn't do anything to these rooms but clean and de-clutter; here's a corner of the kitchen:
And my writing room:
The bathroom, which is the weirdest and funkiest room in this old cottage (was originally the front porch back in 1924 when there was no bathroom but only an outhouse), also got much-needed new paint:
Changing table is set up and waiting, and above it, a mobile made by my super-talented friend Maggie. Here's a detail:
She hand-felted those birds. Aren't they awesome??

So, that's the downstairs at the moment. Neat and tidy and freshly painted and de-cluttered. Loving it. The upstairs is almost there. Crib partially assembled, new curtains need to be hemmed, last and worst painting project (stair railings) nearing completion. Soon.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Busy weekend!!

Lots going on this weekend! Yesterday, Jim and I had breakfast with the fabulous Arthur Levine (editor of Lips Touch, as well as other, slightly less famous titles) who was in town for a writing conference.
We took him to Portland's Original Pancake House, a very famous place around here that claims to have "the most copied menu in the world" -- and for good reason! Their pancakes are amazing. I kid you not, back in the 1950s the owner's wife, a biochemist, "devised a way to break down the gluten in wheat flour used in pancake batter, to make light airy pancakes". Pretty cool. And delicious!

I tried to tempt Arthur into going to see Half-Blood Prince with us, because how cool would that be? But alas, he was too busy with conference commitments. We haven't seen it yet, but I can't wait. I've seen some great reviews of it so far. Anyone seen it? I'd also like to see The Hurt Locker and 500 Days of Summer in the next week or two, because I hear tell movies fall by the wayside for a while. I also hear, though, that the Kennedy School has a mommy matinee ("Let the babies fuss. We don't mind!"), so maybe we can sneak in the occasional movie :-)

Speaking of baby, our baby shower was on Friday, and it was fabulous! Thank you so much to my darling sister Emily and my best friend Alexandra, as well as my mother, for hosting and planning and cooking and making it so awesome. And thank you to our dear friends and family who are so generous and creative and FUN, and who came from near and far to celebrate with us. We love you!
Pics soon of awesome giftage. Some of the handmade stuff just blows my mind. SMOOCH!!

Then, yesterday, Jim and I also had a baby-care class, for folks like us who've never seen the inside of a diaper. We learned a lot! And from there it was off to the Rock n Roll Camp for Girls concert to see my niece and her friend rock out. An exhausting day. Today, the nesting continues. With all the hard work finally finished, it's down to reassembling the rooms, putting stuff back on the walls, and coveting new curtains and rugs to pull it all together. Getting close!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Messy desk tableau

A glimpse of my messy studio desk. I haven 't really worked in the art studio for a long, long time; it's become storage space for whatever doesn't fit elsewhere, and it will be the last room to be decluttered once the rest of the house is put back together (which begins today. Yay!). Since my writing room is standing empty, though, floors newly refinished, etc, my computer has been parked here amid the mess, and this forgotten angel painting I did a few years ago has come to my attention. I love her. If I recall, the title was "Angels Choose Italy" -- because really. Wouldn't you? Thinking of getting her framed. Maybe, I don't know. Putting all the rooms back together, of course we want all new art up on the walls. What we really want is to do some big paintings together, and perhaps we will find the time. Perhaps we will, perhaps we won't.

The angel's color scheme goes with the new bedroom colors, which I can sort of show you here, though of course they're not quite right in the photo:
Almost done painting in that room; a little touch-up remains, plus hanging the new curtains and finding a quilt or coverlet to match. (This quilt is a beauty made long ago by my grandmother.) We got the new bedside tables at our favorite furniture store, Cargo, in the Pearl District. It's this big funky Asian antique and import warehouse filled with awesomeness -- old Indonesian porch columns and Tibetan altars that look like puppet theaters, those great Chinese emperor beds, you know, that are like an entire room? Velvet buddhas, strings of beads, fabric and lanterns and fabulous furniture, etc etc. These tables were quarantined in the upstairs back corner, roped off with the damaged or defective stuff, all because of a few cracks which you can barely notice. Jim bargained the price down to less than half, and they were ours. So, orange and this funky gorgeous blue that's kind of teal, kind of robin's egg, hard to describe. It's Embellish Blue by Behr, at any rate, and I LOVE it. With the bed reassembled, we're through camping out in the living room and actually slept in our bed last night. Yay! More photos once the nest is feathered. It's all sparse right now.

Today: to finally finish the nursery painting, which has taken about five coats more paint than it should on account of somebody at the paint store convincing me to use GREY PRIMER under a transparent tangerine paint!!! ARG! I could throttle me a paint store dude right now. The carpet is in, though, and the new sconces, and it's going to be so cute!!! God, am I ever ready to be DONE.

A few weeks ago, in a rare moment with *nothing* to do (ha!), I made some felt birds while Jim and I watched the last few episodes of The Shield on DVD (a show I thought I had no interest in, that turned out to be awesome). Anyway, you might have seen these garlands I made as gifts for my mom and Alexandra back at the holidays; well, I always meant to make myself one, and now I want one for the nursery, so it's underway.
So far I've only made three birds, though. I need to procure some felt and some more colorful buttons. I used up most of my button supply on the new shower curtains, but that's another story!

At dinner last night down on Mississippi Ave, Jim clowning with my niece and her friend, who are in town for Rock 'n Roll Camp for Girls. Check out their cool hair.

Oh, and I had to wear a long skirt to dinner last night because apparently, some time yesterday when I wasn't looking, I misplaced my ankles! After an afternoon up and down the step ladder, I happened to look down and see -- gasp! horror! -- that my legs continued all the way to my feet, with no discernable ankle in between! It wasn't pretty, I can tell you. The swelling has mostly abated now, and I'm happy to say the wrist braces seem to be doing the trick for my hands. I wonder what other fun surprises are in store over the next couple of weeks?


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Belly update + house update

Here's my belleh in the final stretch! Before you make any, ahem, comments with words like "huge" or whatever, you may want to refer back to this post. [Smiles.] Still feeling [mostly] great, though I have my first "discomfort" related to pregnancy, which I am diagnosing myself, because, you know, Google qualifies us all to be doctors! I think I have pregnancy-related carpal tunnel. Bizarre. The last week-ish, my hands have been going numb while I sleep; I wake up to numb, painful hands! It sucks. Just one at a time, depending which side I'm sleeping on, so I'd roll over and then wake a short time later with the other hand numb and painful. And even while I'm not sleeping, my right hand is feeling week and less mobile than usual. Anyway, a quick Google search of "numb hands/sleep/pregnancy" turns up a bajillion hits that suggest that pregnancy-related swelling (which I don't have too badly, though my rings have been snug) puts pressure on the median nerve running through the carpal tunnel. Suck! I slept in a wrist brace last night and had no problems.

Speaking of sleeping and last night, we camped out in the living room. The downstairs being (halleluja!) finished but still empty o' furniture, and the upstairs bedroom still needing painting, we brought in the sofa bed and made a little camp in the living room. Leroy loved it, because the sofa bed is much lower to the ground than our bed, and he could snuggle right up alongside it and practically feel like he was in bed with us (Leroy is not a bed dog; not a furniture dog in any way. He's spoiled as heck, but not in that way.)

So, a few floor pictures! Not super-exciting, since the rooms are all empty, but exciting for us:

The living room before with the red walls (which we painted 7 years ago and have loved, but just felt the need for change) and the shockingly unbeautiful fir floors, which had probably never been refinished since they were first installed in 1924:
The living room this morning, post camp-out, with Leroy showing his tolerance (and even enjoyment) of having the bed made over him. The new wall color is Eastern Amber by Behr. Love it.
This is how bad the floor was in places before:
And how lovely after:
Like honey. [Happy sigh.]

And here's the sanding man:

So, that's all to show right now. The bathroom is finished too and I love it so much I just want to stand in it and admire it, but no pics yet. Nursery = almost painted. Bedroom = almost begun. So. Still much to do. Better go get started!

Hope all's well! Cheers. And if there are any emails I haven't responded to, I apologize, but I will! I promise!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

why are we doing this?

Goodness gracious. Painting fatigue. Still so much to do. Ai ai ai. Visualizing the final product as I limp-waddle to bed . . .

Good night!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Starred Review!!!

Yippeeee! Great news: Silksinger is getting a *starred review* from Kirkus in the July 15 issue.

Here it is:

Dreamdark: Silksinger. Laini Taylor. Illus. by Jim Di Bartolo. (Putnam 9780399246319)

Thumb-sized mage/warrior Magpie Windwitch’s quest to find and wake the creation-weaving Djinn moves one step closer to completion but also suffers a major reverse in this headlong sequel to Dreamdark: Blackbringer (formerly Fairies of Dreamdark: Blackbringer, 2007). On the trail of the Djinn Azazel, Magpie and her allies wing into the fairy city of Nazneen too late to prevent young Whisper, last of the Silksinger clan, and the sleeping Djinn she guards from falling into the clutches of the deliciously frightening general Ethiag and Ethiag’s mysterious Master. Replete with desperate fights and flights, the plot races along to a rousing climax—and then a stunning betrayal that both renders the fairies’ victory a qualified one at best and leaves the ending open for a direct segue into the next episode. Equally adept at folding in both low humor and elevated imagery and language, Taylor expertly weaves multiple story lines into another ripping yarn, once again taking readers into an uncommonly well-articulated world where the magic follows credible rules and the fairies are anything but the sugarplum sort. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Thank you, Kirkus! I love Kirkus; they also gave Blackbringer a starred review :-)

In "domestic news", Jim is currently putting the third coat of varnish on the wood floors, while Leroy and I are comfortably lounging away from the fumes at my parents' house. He'll get a fourth coat on this afternoon and be done. Yay! Then it's on to the many other projects that are underway:

--Painting the living room. It just had to be done; have to take advantage of the room being empty for the first time in 8 years. I got a really pretty light honey-colored paint to replace the red, which I'm feeling rather done with. With the new floors and lighter walls, that room will be transformed. Can't wait to see it!

--Painting the new nursery; I've primed and spackled and caulked, now it needs to be sanded and painted. The new carpet will go in probably Tuesday. Out of fear of off-gassing and VOCs and all that chemical crap in carpets, we found a lovely wool carpet in the remnant room of a local carpet warehouse for a steal.

--Painting our bedroom. Adjacent to the new nursery, with an open arch door between them; the colors will look lovely together: tangerine for the nursery, a light teal blue for the bedroom.

--Painting the bathroom. That's a light grass green, beautiful.

(What's with all the $^&@*%!!! painting??? Well, we've been in the house 8-1/2 years; you just get bored of stuff after a while, plus it gets dingy. And once you start . . . you just kind of want to keep going. It's going to be fabulous when it's all done. But . . . maybe it's a little psycho to be taking it on just now. Race against the calendar! Ah well, nesting impulse!

--Stair risers! I'm excited about this one. Inspired by decorative painting projects undertaken at Maryam's fabulous house/B&B Peacock Pavilions in Morocco (My Marrakesh, a favorite blog of mine), I got the notion to paint the stair risers. This was the initial inspiration:
Isn't it beautiful? See, this group of decorative painters from the States have now made two trips to Morocco to work on Maryam's house, and the results are spectacular. You can see much more at Maryam's blog here and here, and by navigating around. The designer, Melanie, also has a blog, Design Amour (this link to another stairway they did at Peacock Pavilions), and a business that sells decorative painting stuff, including this Morocco-inspired line of stencils. I've picked out three simple patterns and will alternate stairs, in a limited palette that pulls in the colors of the surrounding rooms. I haven't actually ordered the stencils yet, so this project may be a while in the doing, but it's going to be so cool. Here's another example of some cool decorative risers:
For ease of painting, I'm going to ask the contractor to cut pieces of plywood or whatever he thinks best to the right sizes and paint them before installing. Our stairway is kind of tucked away, so it won't make a big design impact on the house, but will be a nice surprise when you round the corner. So fun!

Suffice it to say, the house is a shambles right now, with the few rooms not undergoing projects currently stuffed with furniture and stuff from the rest of the house. And then there are the various fumes, which accounts for me not being there. Anyway, surely more than anyone cares to know. It'll be so nice to be done with everything and post pictures. You know how awesome it is to chill out in a freshly cleaned house? Well, I'm imagining that when we're finally done, it will be like that times a hundred. Whew. And perhaps just in time to bring Professor home to it :-) We'll tell her the house is always that tidy; she won't know the difference! August 1 draws near . . . wonder when Professor will decide it's time to emerge? Early, late, on time? Who knows? Hopefully not early, though! There's too much work to finish first!

Cheers! Oh, and Leroy says hello :-)

Friday, July 03, 2009

In case you're thinking of spending $40,000 on a kid's bed ...

In the midwife's office the other day I was leafing through a baby magazine and saw an add for cute crib bedding; the company name stuck in my head, and at home I looked it up. Well, the bedding in question cost five times what our crib cost!!! For real! Snort snort, chuckle chuckle. And compared to other stuff on the site, the bedding is a steal. So I guess is for rich people. Really, the name says it all! I've never loved the word "posh." Posh, I am not. It's always fun to browse in the realm of the ridiculous though, so here we go:

Neato dresser!
Only $16,200! I'll take two.
How about a dresser that's been gnawed by a beaver?
$7,200. Beaver not included. (For that price, I want the rodent! How about a beaver trained to make a perfect latte? Really, for $7000 . . . )
Exploding cabinet! $9000!
The very pretty Rosalie three-drawer dresser; by now I find myself thinking, "Wow, this one's only $1726." ha ha!

But frankly, dressers are small potatoes. Let's look at beds, starting with a cheap one:
The lovely "pink Cucciolo Venice bed" is custom-painted with a portrait of your chosen AKC breed of dog. Huh. But that's nothing. Look at this:
Yeah. That's a bed. A $75,000 bed!!! Here's the inside:
Is it just me, or does it seem that a child who sleeps in a bed like this would grow up to be a very unpleasant person? I see ringlet curls and tantrums. I see cruelty to the less fortunate. I see "let them eat cake."

There's another style of coach too, a bit more "Cinderella" and only $47,000, if you're on a budget.

But really, why sleep in a vehicle (kind of low brow, really, like living in a car!), when your bed can be a house?

English Tudor cottage bed, $14,450; Gingerbread cottage, $15,300; Princess palace playhouse bed, $47,000. Yeah.

And those are just beds. Check out the playhouses!!! Oy. Rich people. How much do you suppose it costs Habitat for Humanity to build an entire house in, say, Cameroon or Ecuador? I really have no idea. Less than $47,000?

I love playhouses, though. I dream of one day having a fabulous tree house, not so much for the kids as for me! It would have a deck comfortable enough to sit out on and sip a glass of wine, and perhaps a suspension bridge to an outpost in another tree. Somewhere with a good view from which to watch the Apocalypse through binoculars. ha ha. Or, hey, to watch the Rapture. That will be quite a sight for the earthbound among us!

Well. Needless to say, there is nothing at that rich-person website I will be ordering. The new nursery is inching toward completion though! Yesterday I primed it for painting before Jim had a spell and ordered me out of the paint fumes. Bah. There's so much to do! See, this husband of mine got a last-minute notion to take on the itsy bitsy project of refinishing the wood floors downstairs, so he's buzzing away with various sanders and the house is a shambles. It's going to be awesome, though. I can't WAIT to reassemble everything! With the living room empty, it's very tempting to want to paint it; it's been about 7 years. But if I'm not allowed to paint . . . and we already have the bathroom, bedroom, and nursery to paint. Maybe another room is too much. But . . . it's the perfect time! Sigh. Nesting-overdrive. Can't wait for the actual nesting part.

Pictures as soon as there's something to show!