Work in Progress, Life in Pause

Waking up at 4:30 this morning, being at school for close to twelve hours (most of which was consumed by mind-numbingly boring professional development sessions), and finishing off a bottle of red wine with Barry this evening all have me a bit... off. I'm semi-stressing about how I'll be able to keep up with reading all of my favorite blogs - forget about maintaining my own - if I keep up this pace at work. But I know I won't have to keep up this pace. I know that this is the same intensity that starts off every school year, and things calm down eventually. It's just hard to remember that right now.
I was able to squeeze in a few more hours in my classroom today. It should be ready for the kids by the time I leave work tomorrow. It's looking better, although I'm really saddened by the awful map rug that the principal insists I have in my classroom library.

It's hard making the compromise between what my aesthetic tells me to do, what the administration says I must do, and what I think will make the kids comfortable and happy. The school is close to one hundred years old and has lots of great old features, like the hardwood floors (which Connie appreciated in yesterday's photos), huge windows (noted by Julie), and great built-in closets. How I'd love to play up the age of the building and decorate with vintage school supplies! But I digress.
I stayed late at school, then ran right to Staples to get some supplies, darted home to do laundry, and started cooking dinner right away (a delicious broiled talapia with brown rice and black bean and mango salsa, by the way), so I didn't have much time for fun or craftiness tonight. I did, however, enjoy a beautiful sunset over Manhattan while looking out our kitchen window. Barry was nice enough to capture it for me. Actually, Barry was extra nice since getting the shot required that he climb out onto the fire escape.

And now, only one more day until the long weekend! Man, what's wrong with me? I've only been back to work for two days and already I'm thinking about having Monday off. What can I say? It was a wonderful summer.


Up and At 'Em

I must have some seriously amazing internal clock that resets itself at the beginning of each school year. Although I didn't have to get up until 7:30, I woke at 5:00 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. My mind was swimming with ideas about what I was going to buy at the teachers' supply store, how I was going to set up my room, and, most disturbingly, how I could possibly work with the nasty salmon paint color of my new third grade classroom. It took me hours to get to the store, push my cart up and down the same aisles over and over, wait on a block-long line to pay, and schlep my purchases up to my school. This is the bleakness that greeted me:

Sadly, in the couple hours I was able to spend in my new room, I didn't make much headway - just a splash of color in one of the corners was all I had time for:

Tomorrow is when the serious work begins. I promise, the room will look fabulous before the little nuggets arrive on Tuesday. I wouldn't have it any other way.
This getting back to real stuff stinks. I've been dragging all evening, trying to get my run in, stop at the grocery and hardware stores (staple guns rock), cook a decent meal, and read up on some of my favorite blogs. Oh, speaking of favorite blogs... did you notice? I've done a little work on my links. Just another one of the baby steps in my attempt to be friends with computers. And, in even more exciting blog news, Barry has started a second blog, "...the palest stain of their passing...", in which he's posting groupings from his extensive vintage photography collection. The photos and the way in which Barry is presenting them are just beautiful. Enjoy.


Fiori is Italian for Flowers

Quite a while back, when I had a subscription to Real Simple magazine, I came across some tips on how to turn one of those pre-wrapped bouquets full of cheap flowers into several decent looking arrangements. As I mentioned in one of yesterday's posts (yes, there were three posts yesterday), I'm cheap when it comes to buying things for myself. So today, when I headed off to the florist, my mission was to buy the cheapest bouquet of flowers I could find and put to use whatever I could remember from that Real Simple article. I ended up buying two bouquets from the $5.99 bucket, brought them home, and made my first attempt at floral arrangement. I'm not so fond of all the pink that I had to work with, and there were a few types of flowers that I'd never pick out individually, but overall I was happy with the results:

the 49 cent creamer on the kitchen table is finally filled

so is the one on the sideboard

usually carnations slay me, but I can deal with them
in this bud vase on the coffee table

an attempt to make the t.v. stand a little less hideous

can you believe I took my blog into the bathroom

in the bedroom - my nightside stand/bookshelf,
underneath a print from my parents
(yes, I even used that wretched baby's breath)

this last bedroom shot is not really about the flowers,
but more about the meaningful, fun gifts around them:
the blue vase is from my sister and her husband,
the mirror and the Danish carafe are from my bother and his wife,
and the industrial cabinet is from my in-laws

I'm hoping that these arrangements all over the apartment will provide a little pick-me-up during this week back to work. Hope your day is going well - if not, hey, buy some flowers!

Summertime and the Livin' Is Easy

This being my last free summer day, I decided to start it off by indulging in a couple of my favorite morning activities. I listened to the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, my local National Public Radio station. It airs from 10:00 - noon, and it kills me that I miss its live broadcast when I'm at work. While listening, I worked on a new group of earrings and sipped on a glass of iced coffee. Delicious. Here are a few of the pairs of earrings I came up with, using the antiqued brass findings and little charms that I picked up in Richmond:

Now, it's grey and rainy outside, so I'm ditching my original plans to ride my bike around and enjoy Astoria. I think I'll put on my rain boots and head over to the flower shop. I'd like to fill the apartment with some fresh flowers before returning to work tomorrow.


New Etsy Listings

I've made a date with a fellow teacher to go to school together on Wednesday to start setting up our classrooms. Wednesday. Two days from now. So I thought I better get some things done that I've been thinking about, but not been active about, before I really get into the swing of school things. I'd been meaning to add some new designs to my etsy shop, so I just listed these:

I thought I'd list several pairs made of wooden beads, since the one wooden bead pair that I initially posted has gotten a lot of views on the site. Tomorrow, I plan to work on more earrings using antiqued brass findings, which I can't find anywhere but Richmond. I stocked up while we were there, so I've got a busy day ahead of me.

Featherstone Square Antique Mall & Collectibles - Annapolis, Maryland

I'm usually all about delayed gratification. I make sure that what I have to get done gets done before I allow myself to have fun. I even put off doing things that I love in favor of taking care of not-so-pressing issues, just for the sake of making my experiences of the things I love that much more savory when I get to them. But the Featherstone Square Antique Mall, where Barry and I stopped on our way home from Richmond yesterday, gave my attempt at delaying gratification a run for its money. Usually, when we stop by this particular mall, I browse around the hundred or so booths, drooling over the pyrex bowls, the vintage tablecloths and towels, the bakelite jewelry, and I think to myself, "I love this, I love that, but most things are too pricey." Not that the items in the mall are over-priced - I'm just cheap when it comes to buying things for myself. But yesterday, I didn't follow my usual pattern around the store. Uncharacteristically, I made a bee-line for my favorite vendor's stall. I always save her spot for the end of our visits, but something was calling me. This particular vendor has a selection that tells me we'd be friends if we lived in the same town (or, at least, our tastes would be friends), and the prices are right up my alley. She usually has things tagged between $1 and $7. So when I got to the booth and saw that the vendor was having a 50% sale on everything, I started shaking. I plopped myself down in the center of her booth and started digging (she has a pleasantly chaotic set-up). Here is just a sample of what I came up with:

table runner from Norway (in it's original, vintage packaging), plastic red tray with cup holder and snack section, red and black creamer (I can't get enough of those colors), two little bowls with a sweet light blue, silver, and black wheat image (that color combo is high on my favorite list, too), an old metal ashtray with an anchor (you should know about me and anchors by now), and an iron buffalo - in red

candle holders and a gorgeous ashtray (no, neither of us smoke)

an enamled pot and vintage Vera scarf

a box in which to store some desk items

We also picked up an enamled Knoll dish, a shaving mirror with some great, abstract-looking deterioration going on, a set of old wooden coasters from Puerto Rico, a retro kitchen towel, a red and white metal filing box (you know, for the store I'm gonna open some day...), and a mod, covered, grated cheese serving bowl from Italy. Whew!
After I finished at the greatest antique mall booth that ever existed, I found Barry, who had already made his way through the entire mall. The choice to jump right into gratification paid off - I would have freaked out if I had saved the booth for last and only had a few minutes to spend in it.
But don't worry. I've not totally given up on delayed gratification (which my mother will tell you, and I'll agree, is an important virture for people to practice). In fact, I practiced it this morning. I went grocery shopping in the rain - yuck - before I allowed myself to break out the Goo-Gone and unpack all of yesterday's purchases.

Jets to Brazil? Rental car to Annapolis!

I'm back from Richmond, after a record-long drive home. Whenever I get stuck in serious traffic, I start imagining where I could be if I had flown instead of driving, allowing myself the same amount of time on my imaginary plane that I've spent in the all too real car. Yesterday, Barry and I could have made it south of the equator in the amount of time that we spent sitting on I-95. However, had we been on a plane, we would not have been able to stop by the antique mall in Annapolis that made me break out into a sweat, literally, over their cool, cheap wares. Check in later today for photos of the purchases that resulted from my insane spree. Until then, I'm leaving you with this photo of the package that I'm running out to mail now - another etsy order! For this one, I owe thanks to Connie, the author of the blog I can't get enough of, Life Love Chocolate.


Millie's Diner - Richmond, Virgina

We've only been in Richmond two and a half days, but we have eaten at Millie's Diner twice already. And we might make it three times before we leave. We've gotten into the habit of eating at Millie's several times during each of our trips to Richmond. The place is perfection!

The jukeboxes at each table are loaded with the best blues, reggae, old country, and punk recordings:

The interior is fabulous - cool old stools, vintage fixtures, a nice bar, a cook working magic in the front window, and just the right amount of darkness:

The food is amazing - a brief but sufficient blackboard menu (for breakfast and lunch) is comprised of some traditional diner-type foods with just a hint of a gourmet twist. From what I hear from those who are lucky enough to know first-hand, the dinner menu at Millie's is fantastic. And an extra bonus: you'll always find a cute scooter or two parked ouside. Peter and Jennifer, Barry and I thought you'd like this two-seater Lambretta:

Thanks to Barry for the photos today. Yep, I'm loving Richmond...


JetSet Boutique - Richmond, Virginia

After yesterday's post about the back-to-school blahs (with no photos - bah, humbug!), I'm so relieved to be able to share with you today some fun info and pictures about my wonderful morning here in Richmond. I met with Amy, the owner of the JetSet (located at 2925 West Cary Street in the heart of Carytown), for breakfast. Amy is a joy to talk to - she's got a great sense of humor, a sharp eye for design, and is super encouraging about my dreams of opening my own shop one day. She was full of helpful tips on the ins and outs of store ownership. I love hearing the story of how she started off on her independent store ownership venture (leaving the security of a corporate job), and how she figured out a lot about running a business through her successes and her... not-so-successes. My "I gotta open a store" wheels are turning. Yes, as Connie predicted in a comment earlier this week, I've found my inspiration in Richmond! Without further ado, I'd like to share JetSet with you:

Amy always has terrific window displays - always.

How adorable is her on-street tissue paper dress?

I admire how seriously Amy takes the design of her shop.
I come across too many well-intentioned, independently-owned shops
that carry great merchandise, but the owners just don't pay enough
attention to the atmosphere that they create in their stores.
Not JetSet, not Amy - her fixtures, color selection, and overall layout are fabulous!

JetSet carries jewelry by several local Richmond designers
as well as by non-Richmondites, like me.

And the clothes, oh the clothes!
Amy's sense of style is impecable -
she dresses with such a funky but polished flair herself and
she carries an amazing selection of independent designers' fashions in her boutique.

Oh, yeah. Amy and I didn't just meet to talk over bagels and coffee. I should mention that JetSet now has a whole new selection (and a wide selection at that) of sulu-design earrings, just in time for fall shopping. Thanks to Amy for the great company and all the valuable advice!


Happy Fake-o New Year!

Several blogs that I frequent have recently included posts about the bittersweet nature of back-to-school time. The moms behind Little Birds and House on Hill Road (along with my sister, Maryanne, a non-blogger) have shared their simultaneous feelings of excitement for their children's learning and growth, their happiness to have a little free time of their own, and their sadness at seeing their babies growing up and growing more independent with each day. I, on the other hand, have almost the opposite reaction to the beginning of the school year. Next week, my amazing summer - the best summer I've had as an adult - comes to a screeching halt. My free time flies out the window. Next week, I return to my classroom (a third grade classroom this year) to prepare it for the students who will arrive just after Labor Day. While I am certainly excited to meet my new students and to start off a fresh school year, I am really going to miss the freedom I had this summer (and, yes, I'm a bit apprehensive about returning to the hectic nature of the public school in the South Bronx where I work). I've been thinking a lot about what made this summer so much better than the previous seven (the number of work-free summers I've been lucky enough to have so far), and I've come up with this list of things that brought me satisfaction on a regular basis this time around:
1. Running every day
2. Riding my bike
3. Making jewelry frequently
4. Trying out new crafts, especially those that require the use of my sewing machine
5. Revisiting my day's activities and thoughts by means of posting on this blog
6. Reading others' blogs
7. Cooking tasty meals (okay, I did a little of that before this summer)
8. Tending to our window box
9. Thrift store shopping (fine, I did that before, too)
10. Strolling through my neighborhood with no destination in particular
11. Reading books that Barry recommended
All of these activities are so simple, but they have brought me immeasurable pleasure over the past two months. During the school year, I usually get so wrapped up in fiddling in my classroom after school, working on lesson plans, trying to come up with creative projects for my students, editing students' work, calling parents, stressing about some of my students' home lives, etc. that I let those things that bring me joy fall to the wayside. So, my fake-o new year's resolution is to pay more attention during the school year to those things that bring me such happiness. Hopefully, a little of that happiness will have an effect on the person I am in the classroom, too. No matter which side of the back-to-school fence you're on, happy back-to-school, everybody! So long summer (sniff, sniff).


Jewelry Jinxed

Major frustration! I sat down hours ago to works on necklaces (as in necklace made plural), but I just couldn't seem to get going. I ended up with only one (as in necklace remaining singular):

And I'm not so sure that I love it. I am, however, extremely fond of the charm that hangs from it. It's some sort of insurance-related tag, as indicated by a bit of type that still clings to the back:

I picked up the charm (if one can call it that) in an old junk store in Alpine, Texas last summer. My memories of Alpine and the two towns, Marfa and Fort Davis, that form a small triangle with it (near the Big Bend National Park - glorious!), are so fantastic that they are currently overshadowing my ability to critique the design merits of the necklace.
I also tried to make a few pairs of earrings and was feeling pretty uninspired with those, too. I told myself that I would hold off on buying new beads for a while, at least until I've made more deliveries of earrings made with the last crop of beads. So I was playing around with the remaining beads from the last batch and feeling like I could do little more with them than what I had already done. I came up with these:

Kinda ho hum. On a happier note, Barry and I are leaving tonight for an extended weekend in Richmond, Virginia, to visit his parents. I'm excited to see Mike and Judy, I'm looking forward to hanging out in the city - Richmond is beautiful, and I'm psyched because I've got a breakfast date with Amy, the owner of JetSet. Amy has been carrying my earrings in her store (located in Carytown) for quite a while now. And this Friday she'll be picking out some new designs for the shop while I bask in her enthusiastic glow (if I only had half of this woman's energy...)! I'll post pictures of her adorable store in the next couple of days. Enjoy the rest of the week, and keep your fingers crossed that I'll find some jewelry inspiration soon.

I'm Loving "Life Love Chocolate"

I've been feeling a bit guilty recently about not posting more jewelry-related items (wasn't that why I started this blog is the first place?), but I've having so much fun with other interests that I often can't help but post about those instead. Today's post is no different.
The time I spend on the computer each day has increased dramatically since I started reading others' blogs this summer. How did I exist for so long while being in the dark about some of these gems? I'm amazed at the quality of writing, the photography, and the topics addressed in so many blogs that I happen to just stumble upon. One blog that has truly inspired me recently is Life Love Chocolate, and I wanted to share it with the readers of my blog because I know that several of you (Mom, Maryanne, Mike - and others whose names don't begin with"M") will enjoy it, too.
I found Life Love Chocolate through another brilliant blog, A Bird in the Hand. While scrolling through comments that readers had left on A Bird in the Hand, I was struck by something posted by a reader named Connie. Who is this Connie, I wondered. So I clicked on over to her blog. The first post I came across was Connie's list of "Things to Do Before I Leave Cleveland." Being born and raised in Cleveland myself, I was intrigued. As it turned out, several of the places that Connie wanted to visit (or revisit, in most cases) before she left are places that I frequent when I'm in Cleveland visiting family. So I read on. As it turned out, Connie was making the move from Cleveland to Cambridge. Yes, the same Cambridge to which my friend Maritza is moving next week. These coincidences had me interested, but it was the content of Connie's blog that got me hooked.
Connie regularly posts lovely descriptions of her wanderings around her new neighborhood, her daily goings on, and - my favorite - recipes that are delicious, simple, and make use of fresh produce, which she picks up at local markets. She provides mouth-watering close ups of scones, tomato fondue, and a chilled glass of wine (to name a few of her recent treats), and always includes elegantly simple directions for making those dishes that she highlights.
Life Love Chocolate included a recipe for grilled plums earlier this week that inspired me to try grilling some fruits of my own for desert last night:

Connie's photos of the completed dish are far more enticing - all the more reason for you to go check out her blog. By the way, the fruit was wonderful served with a glass of port.
Now, in homage to Connie's simple yet delicious recipes, I thought I provide one of my own here. While making dinner last night, I was sipping on a Mint Julep, my favorite summer drink. So...
Mint Julep
2 oz. bourbon (we like Maker's Mark)
2 sugar cubes
8 sprigs of mint (I often toss in a few more than that)
crushed ice

Crush the mint and sugar cubes together in the bottom of a glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice and pour the bourbon over it. Stir vigourously and serve.
(adapted from Ben Reed's Cool Cocktails, a gift from Peter and Jennifer, my brother and sister-in-law)

So it's not as impressive as most of Connie's recipes, but it is quite refreshing. Now, I'm off to work on some necklaces so I can get back to posting about jewelry some day soon. That is, if checking in on my favorite blogs doesn't distract me first!



How did I not include this in the previous post?

Good Things Happening to Good People

I've been so excited the past few days about some great things that are happening at several of the special stores that carry sulu-design pieces...
First, Sodafine, a very hip shop owned by the adorable Erin, opened in its new location at 119 Grand Street in Willimasburg, Brooklyn. A couple weeks ago, when I met up with Erin to drop of sulu-design earrings and necklaces for the new store, she was still in the midst of renovating and setting up shop. But she opened her doors for business one week ago, and it sounds like the store's new location is a hit. I can't wait until I can get there and see it for myself. When I am able to get there, I'll take and post photos of the lovely interior - Erin does an amazing job with her stores' interiors.
Second, I was so psyched to read the article in the August 20th New York Times Sunday Styles section (top of page three, in case you haven't recycled it already) on Astoria and Long Island City boutiques. Three of the four stores featured carry sulu-design pieces, so I'm selfishly happy for the publicity. But I'm even more excited for the shop owners who have invested so much time and money setting up their businesses in Queens. Those of you reading this in NYC who want to support quality local businesses should stop by Subdivision, Loveday 31, and Mimi's Closet (all of which are referenced in my previous posts). Tell them sulu sent you.


No Vacation from Vintage Shopping!

The west coast of Michigan was a treasure trove of antique malls, vintage stores, and junk shops. Here are just a few of our finds from St. Joseph, Niles, Harbert, and the other small towns that we visited:

We picked up this frame, which has beautiful, delicate lines, in an old barn house.
It may end up holding a vintage Valentine's Day card that Barry gave me earlier this year:

I found a couple pieces of clothing and a few accessories that I just couldn't resist. The prices in almost every shop were so great (especially when compared to the inflated prices here in NYC) that I indulged a bit:

this handmade jacket is half of a smart little vintage suit -
I love the detail at the neck

Who doesn't love scarves?
I picked up one in pink mohair and the one in a black and white mod print.

I've been searching all summer for hankies
(a necessity when waiting for the subway in 90 degree heat)
and loved how these two had hand-embroidered details around their floral prints.

I also had to get the Faith, Hope, and Charity charms seen above -
my anchor obsession was in full force.

And then, the most random purchase of all...

this little rocking pony was too cute to pass up -
one day, when I own my own shop,
I'll display necklaces made of vintage pieces on this guy's back

Thanks, Michigan!


Highlights from Family Fun Fest 2006

Just a quick photo post before bed. I'm back in New York after a week with the whole family on the shores of Lake Michigan. We gathered there to celebrate my mom's birthday:

I think the only reason Nonna's grandkids
like to help her blow out her candles is that
they get first swipe at the frosting

Mari (or Calamari, as she was called all week) approved of the frosting
from the cake we got at the local bakery,
but Nicholas kept singing the praises of Nonna's secret recipe

Nicholas and Martin are no-joke sand castle builders

Mari prefers the trucks

one night I made a ridiculously easy but extremely tasty
black bean and mango salsa (adapted from a recipe from Mike, my father-in-law)
to accompany the grilled tuna that my brother prepared
How nice to be able to grill out!

since the bed in our cottage was coverd in this log cabin quilt,
I couldn't go to sleep at night without thinking of
my friend, Maritza, who is a quilting machine as of late

while on vacation, Barry and I celebrated out fifth wedding anniversary
by bowling several frames at the local alley -
the lady who rented us our shoes didn't seemed at all bothered
by my request to commemorate the event by
photographing these size fives

It was great to be with my whole family for a week, a feat which rarely happens. Barry and I did spend some time on our own, scouring the antique/vintage/junk malls of Michigan's west coast. Tomorrow... our finds!