All coffee connoisseurs bow down to Stumptown. Their roasts, their education, their products are all tried-and-true, tested for perfection. I’m especially loving these Brew Kits, aptly named for the typecasts we coffee snobs fall into. I wish I could say I was a Voyager, but my purist design self (and, um, lack of wilderness skills) lands me squarely in the Chemist category.
(Don’t worry Dad - Harvest Coffee is still my number one… but Stumptown is a close second!)
We’ve received such great gifts for Leo from friends and family. A favorite is this Little Prince onesie from his cousin Henry (and AK & UK!). Not only is it one of his papa’s favorite stories, but I’ve become a fan of the company who made it. Out of Print has a collection of clothing and accessories for all ages with classic and quirky books in mind. They boast that their clothing is “treated to feel like your favorite book (that one you have to read eleven times).” That is exactly how this onesie feels – soft and worn-in. But my favorite part about Out of Print is their socially-minded mission: in partnership with Books for Africa, a book is donated to a community in need for each product sold. Head on over to their website to see more, including staff book recommendations on the Bookshelf and their wares in the wild at “What’s Your Story?”
While things have been quiet on the blog, they’ve been anything but at home. Leo came around at 4:23am on January 12th – a whole TWO months ago now. He was a week early and a peanut, weighing in at 7lbs, 7oz (compared to Lucy’s 9lbs, 1oz), and measuring 20.5”. His personality so far is exactly what I expected from my pregnancy… loud and quite fidgety. He’s also a total mess, with bodily fluids spewing from both ends, and often simultaneously. Noise covered in dirt, they say. Quite a different ride than my little independent hobo princess who keeps correcting me when I tell people she’s four. “Four and a HALF!” she explains. Silly me. She was just my little baby… the one who slept through the night at 6 weeks (sigh).
This has been the longest holiday celebration we’ve ever had – almost a week full of dinners and family and long visits. The season was made longer by an ambitious Advent calendar and plenty of handmade gifts (like this, this, this, this, and this - yes, there were plenty more not documented). I’m not complaining – we certainly made the most of our last one-child Christmas. While we wind down, I wanted to share my family’s holiday video (in lieu of cards). Catch a peak at my huge belly, some Bowie cat, and our humble tree decor. Many thanks to my husband for putting this together… and revising it to include some my favorite ornaments.
I even got to making some more with Lucy last night, though we dressed hers up with some watercolors, pretty ribbon, and tissue paper (we used sandwich bags for her to package the cookies). With our baked goods in the freezer, we can put together a cookie basket when she’s ready to gift.
Canadiano (from Fishtnk Design Factory) has redesigned the standard coffee pour-over with a block of wood. Using FSC-certified timber, a series of concentric circles are carved to form a cone, and a little stainless steel filter replaces the need for paper filters. The brew method is even similar to regular pour-overs, with a slow 2-4 minute pour. However, what sets these apart from the beehives is how the wood version absorbs the coffee oils and, over time, enhances the cup’s flavor (single origin beans, repetition of the same roast, and their Raw editions are recommended to really achieve this). Canadiano‘s current production includes cherry, walnut, and maple, with each species prescribed for different roasts. Walnut’s dark hues apparently help along those darker, earthier roasts (like Indonesian coffees) while maple and cherry capitalize on those citrus and nutty notes (think Ethiopian, Guatemalan, and Columbian). Perhaps my most favorite feature – easy peasy maintenance. Just a quick rinse after brewing to let those oils soak in. Honestly, I pretty much do this anyway with my Chemex and french press because I’m so lazy.
This fall, Mica Hendricks‘ “Collaborations” post went viral, making the rounds on social media, blogs, and even the Huffington Post. For those living under a rock (or social media-challenged), Mica shared her artistic collaboration… with her 4-year-old. Having one of those myself, I commiserated with her not wanting to share her good sketch pad and artwork with some know-it-all tot:
In a very serious tone, she looked at me and said, “If you can’t share, we might have to take it away if you can’t share.”
Yeah. I’ve heard that before. As a parent, you have to walk the walk. As a designer, you have deadlines. And clients. And your own damn good ideas. However, sometimes that little voice (familiar in your own words) sends a double-dog-dare your way. In Mica’s case, the challenge opened a door to a new way of working and thinking. The great thing about what she did, and what I try to do myself, is to be open to the imagination of these little people. They have good ideas we can take advantage of nurture:
And from it all, here are the lessons I learned: to try not to be so rigid. Yes, some things (like my new sketchbook) are sacred, but if you let go of those chains, new and wonderful things can happen. Those things you hold so dear cannot change and grow and expand unless you loosen your grip on them a little. In sharing my artwork and allowing our daughter to be an equal in our collaborations, I helped solidify her confidence, which is way more precious than any doodle I could have done. In her mind, her contributions were as valid as mine (and in truth, they really were). Most importantly, I learned that if you have a preconceived notion of how something should be, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE DISAPPOINTED. Instead, just go with it, just ACCEPT it, because usually something even more wonderful will come out of it.
The project has inspired many, with contests and charity sales furthering the good karma. I love the special limited-edition print available in the most recent The Working Proofnewsletter. (If you don’t subscribe to TWP, get on it. One weekly email introducing you to new and favorite artists with limited edition prints that benefit a range of charities. Get art & help a cause. Win-win.)
“Peacock Girl” features mama Mica’s head and daughter Myla’s dreamed-up peacock body, with a little polishing from mom’s pencils and paints. Mica chose to have TWP donate to Puppies Behind Bars (15% of gross sales!), a program where inmates train puppies to become service dogs for law enforcement as well as for the disabled. C’mon, who doesn’t love puppies? Read her interview here and grab a print for the precocious kid in your life.
Each year, I’ve pared down the clutter of holiday decor to make way for fresh-cut branches and simple ornaments here and there. However, perhaps a few new toys wouldn’t hurt, eh? Last year I was swooning over Schoolhouse Electric‘s German holiday folk decor (my favorite is available again this year!), and these wooden pyramids from Heath Ceramics continue my desire to start collecting. I wasn’t sure what I loved so much about it last year, but I started to think about why I could validate my attraction even further…
Despite both my maternal and paternal grandmothers coming from different cultures and backgrounds (Grandma was a Philly gal born in Belfast and Mom-mom was a Polish girl from New England), I remember lingering on some folksy holiday decor in both of their homes. Each of them also had great respect for items of quality. So it is no surprise that I became an uber fan of Heath Ceramics and most everything they offer, especially these new additions to their classic holiday collection:
“Our hand-crafted wooden holiday decorations are made by a cooperative of artisans in the town of Seiffen, Germany, known as “toy village,” where woodworking has been a part of the local trade for hundreds of years. These pyramids continue a centuries-old tradition of portraying various winter country scenes that celebrate the season. Heat from the candles rises, causing the propeller to spin for a fun and quaint centerpiece.”
Of course, they will always remind me of Cousin Eddie, but that only makes it better.
Winter is officially here for us folk near Philadelphia. Though the heft of snow from last weekend has melted away, it ushered in the promise of a wintery holiday season. We don’t always get that in these parts, so I was happy to slow down for the snow – even making snowmen with Lucy and my 8-month-pregnant round belly.
Though our Christmas decorations have been up for over a while now, I miss our fall decor. Lucy, me, and even my husband spent most of November bringing home leaves of different shapes and colors. Then I’d dry them out with our field specimen press or, for the big ones, between paper towels under big books on the floor. Our dining room table was covered with kraft paper and paint most of the month, too, as we slowly grew our collection. Using washi tape, I created a temporary installation of the artful leaves in our living room as they were completed. (If you follow my instagram, you’d have seen our progress here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Now our Christmas tree lights up the corner, and those leaves await a home in a scrapbook. Here are some favorites:
And here is a full view of the installation with Miss L in the foreground, dressed as a pink fairy, gawking at the Thanksgiving Day parade:
In 2010, I was a few years into my career as a residential interior designer. It was a job I thought I’d always wanted, but it had started to feel a great lack of… something. The projects were challenging and helped to build skills, but they were not my personal style. However, the aforementioned “something” ended up being the realization that my own values for sustainable design were never going to be implemented in this particular firm. My tree-hugging attempts to “green” the office by recycling and introducing sustainable products were fruitless. Our vendors weren’t even interested in selling “green” products and therefore rarely offered sustainable options or education. I needed to find an outlet or someone to share my views with, which is when I decided to try the DVGBC. I called the committees coordinator, described my interests and goals, and she helped my zero in on a few committees to try out: Residential Circle (now defunct) and Emerging Professionals. Though I did not feel as much of a connection to the RC agenda, I became enthusiastic about the EP’s mission and goals.
With the EPs, I was with others feeling the same frustrations in their careers, each motivated to do something about it. I began to volunteer for things I didn’t know much about, like inviting speakers to the group for lectures, fundraising for events, and being in a pilot mentor program. Something strange began to happen – I was networking without even knowing it. The speakers I was asked to invite were big architects in the city, giving me a straight connection to the top of some of the city’s most prestigious firms. The Earth Day of Service event I helped with (i.e. called and begged vendors for free food) ended up involving Mayor Nutter and the Murals Arts Program for a community mural and garden. The mentor program hooked me up with some amazing and strong female professionals in the region who took great interest in my career and ambitions. I should also mention that, as a result of one of the many green happy hours (best way fellow greenies like to network), I went back to school and began my own firm. There was even a time where I led a panel at a local Best of Greenbuild event, partnering with the IES‘s EP group, and ended up being a speaker myself in front of an audience – what? Me? I sometimes think, Did I really do all of this? I just jumped in with both feet, ready and willing.
Fast forward three years, and I have a Masters of Science in Sustainable Design and am still growing my sustainable design network and portfolio with my own firm. I’m not sure where I would be professionally had I not taken the initiative to join the DVGBC’s EP committee. Perhaps Philadelphia’s sustainable network of professionals is extra friendly, because most people I’ve met in this circle are eager to have others who care about their work with a triple bottom line. Though I’m less active these days in the committee (another kid on the way, ya know?), I still am glad to share my EP story and help others find their way.