Please Don't Misunderstand

I'd planned on not blogging until after the new year, until after I'd gone to Cleveland for a few days to see my very missed family (one more day, guys!), but the most random thing has brought me here to post this morning. An old friend was pictured this morning on the Sartorialist. Barry pointed the post out to me. We are both Sartorialist subscribers, but Barry woke up first today (Barry wakes up first every day). It was this photo taken in the East Village, NYC, that brought me here to say what I've been needing to say for a long time now. So... out with it: I miss New York City. Terribly.

I've been avoiding this topic here because I in no way want my longing for New York to be confused with a dislike of Portland. Honestly, I love both cities. Love them. Portland has done wonders for my stress level, for my appreciation of nature, for restoring my faith in humanity. I've made more friends here in five months than I did in New York in thirteen years (not that I'm snubbing my nose at you, New York friends - you know I'd never do that). There are qualities about Portland that are exactly what I was looking for in a city. But all that being said, New York City pulls at my heart on a regular basis.

Honestly, some of the things that I'm missing, I'm embarrassed to admit. Things that are of little importance or consequence in the grand scheme of things. Like the fabulous sense of style that so many people on the street display. And good bagels. I think you know how important a good bagel is to me. I've scoured this city and found a few tolerable ones but nothing here comes close to a whole wheat everything from Brooklyn Bagels on Broadway in Astoria, Queens.

But there are other things - things of a bit more value - that are making me long for the city, too. The diversity in New York City is unparalleled, and I miss the dynamic that it brought to my life on a daily basis. I miss good public transportation. I miss having an endless number of neighborhoods to explore. I miss block after block of old buildings that scream of history, of many lives lived. I miss my interaction with shop owners that carry sulu-design earrings. I miss sassiness, snap, and sarcasm. I miss east coastness.

I fear that I'm going to be misunderstood here, especially by the wonderful people I've befriended since we've moved to Portland. I really do adore this city, and the people here have been so down to earth, so friendly, so welcoming, so inspiring - simply beyond amazing. I don't want to give the impression, either, that I've developed unrealistic memories about NYC. It hasn't gone unnoticed that there is no litter on the street here, that I haven't endured any street harassment or been cursed at by a single stranger since we moved, that we haven't had to call the cops regarding drama on our block, and that grocery stores in Portland have enough room for two carts to pass one another in the aisles (my friends in Queens know what a luxury that is). There was just something about seeing my old friend Steve's photo this morning made me wish I could be standing on that street in New York, too...


The Sincerest form of Flattery, Wrapping it Up

This post doesn't quite fit into my previous imitation series, as I stumbled upon the link I'm including after I had made what I'm about to share with you. I've been making the wrapping paper for all of our Christmas gifts this year. Michelle, apparently, has been, too. And since Michelle's blog is so beautiful and our wrappings are loosely similar, I wanted to include a link to her post about the gorgeous paper she made - even if it wasn't technically the inspiration for mine. Without further ado, here's my final crafty attempt for this holiday season:

Simple. Brown shipping paper stamped and tied with layers of ribbon. Done.

Or, at least, done with what I'm able to post here. Last year at Christmas, my siblings and our spouses promised each other that we'd be exchanging only handmade gifts this year (how convenient that our promise coincided with this year's handmade pledge). We're trying to make them all ourselves. Barry and I are in the process of finishing them up... Who am I kidding? We're in the process of starting a few of them, too. I'll be posting lots of handmade goodness in the new year, after all has been exchanged. Until then, blogging may be sparse, but my wishes for happy holidays for you and your family are as strong as ever.


The Sincerest form of Flattery, Part 4

My inspiration for today's post comes less from seeing others' finished products than it does from knowing about their process. I'll admit it: I've always been a little envious of bloggers who post tutorials. I want to be in their tutorial club. I've wished that I had a skill that was worth documenting in a series of photos, and that could be demonstrated well enough in a forum like this that readers could follow it and make something themselves. 'Cause tutorials make pretty rockin' posts. Cases in point:

Amandajean has been posting her knock-out quilt-along tutorials for weeks now (aside from her other technique tutorials). Clearly, this is no small undertaking. And clearly, her readers love it (check out the list of ladies, found in her sidebar) who are quilting along with her.

Erin, always practical and prolific, has posted some great sewing tutorials. Must learn to sew - to really sew.

Julie posted a great idea for Advent wreathes last year, with a tutorial borrowed from Brownie Points.

And Sonya recently posted the sweetest little tutorial on putting scrap yarn to good use during the holidays.

Guys, I want in! Happily, the perfect little tutorial project dawned on me as I was making my second string of garland this year (the first had become window frame garland - we needed more for our tree). I realized that I could show you this silly little finger knitting technique that I did as a kid, which can be used to make garland or decorative strings for tying up packages, or it can simply be used to keep little hands occupied while big hands are preparing for the holidays themselves:

First, tie the end of a ball of yarn loosely around the thumb of your non-dominant hand. On that hand, pass the yarn over the pointer finger, behind the middle finger, over the ring finger, and behind the pinky, like so:

Then, pull the yarn forward and wrap the fingers with it in the opposite manner, going over the pinky, behind the ring finer, over the middle finger, and behind the pointer.

Pull the yarn forward and wrap it around your fingers again, as you did the first time: in front of the pointer, behind the middle finger, in front of the ring finger, and behind the pinky.

It gets interesting here, I swear. Let the yarn attached to the ball hang loose. Using your dominant hand, pull the bottom portion of yarn on your pointer finger up over the top portion of yarn and over the top of the pointer finger, allowing it to fall behind your hand. Do the same with the bottom portion of yarn on your ring finger. In the photo below, the pointer yarn has been pulled over the finger already, and the ring finger is in the process of slipping the bottom portion of yarn over the top portion of yarn and over the finger.

Now, wrap the yarn around the pinky, behind the ring finger, over the middle finger, and behind the pointer. Slip the bottom two portionss of yarn (which are on your pinky and middle finger now) over the top yarn and to the back of your hand. Continue to wind the yarn around your fingers in the same pattern - forward, behind, forward, behind - and pull the bottom bits up and over the top bits, two times per wind. Eventually, a little web will grow along the back of your hand:

As it gets longer, it makes a pretty little chain:

And if you tug on it, it makes a sweet little rope.

Between making a rope that's long enough to circle our tree many times over and typing this ridiculously verbose post, I need a break... with a cup of coffee, in front of our garland-wrapped tree.

EDIT: How did I forget to mention Liz's post, with her own garland tutorial and tutorial links galore?!?


The Sincerest form of Flattery, Part 3

Last week, my friend Andrea and I went to an event at Bolt, a wonderful little fabric shop here in Portland, where we met Diana Rupp, founder of Make Workshop in New York City. Diana is currently on tour to promote her book SEW which she did at Bolt by showing off some last-minute holiday sewing projects. I jumped at this one:

Using scraps of fabric and heavy weight paper, I stitched little decorations onto our home computer-printed holiday cards. So simple... and they're off! One more day of imitation to come. May the force be with you all this week.


The Sincerest form of Flattery, Part 2

Two of my favorite bloggers happen to friends in real life. They live in Portland - but, sadly for me, the one the east coast. And they both make awesome wreaths. Last year, Meg's button wreaths inspired me to make my own. Let's just say she's been a bit busy with them this year, too. And it was Jen's striped wool wreathes (also seen here and here) that brought out the wreath-maker in me this year. Ah... it is beginning to look a lot like Chrisitmas. More blog-inspired holiday crafts to follow...


The Sincerest form of Flattery, Part 1

I spent my two days off this week crafting away like crazy, mostly on holiday projects that I've seen posted on other blogs - on your blogs. I thank my lucky stars for you people. Without your inspiration, they're be little evidence around here that it's Christmas time (not that I'm bitter that it doesn't really snow here in Portland). Here's a bit of my attempt at imitation:

Not being much of a seamstress but loving the soft trees I first saw on Stepahnie's blog last year (and then on the blogs of Fanja and Liesl and, well, lots of bloggers), I used styrofoam cones (like the ones Andrea and Beki used in their gumdrop trees) and pinned scraps of fabric to them.

I had enough scraps left over to make these fabric balls, similar to ones I'd admired a while back on Sally's blog. Tomorrow... wreaths inspired by two of my favorite bloggers ever. And more Christmas craftiness to follow next week. Have a great weekend, all.


Last Call

Really. Seriously. I'm not kidding.
This is my last shop update before the holidays.
I think.

Click on images photos below for links to their etsy listings.

I'll report back tomorrow with photos of the simple
Christmas projects that I finally completed
now that I've had a couple days off of work.
Decorations? Check. Presents? That's a totally different story...


Santa... and Mom and Dad

Avert the eyes of young children... things are going to be revealed here that no child should have to know. But for all of you adults, these Christmas memories just might warm your hearts. I've been thinking of them fondly as Barry and I prepare our home for the holidays.

When my brother, sister, and I were kids, my parents really played up the magic of Santa. I have vivid memories of lying in my bed at night, nervously awaiting his arrival at our house, waiting to hear the telltale signs of his presence. First, there'd be the jingle of the bells that were lashed to the reindeer's harnesses as they approached out house. Then there'd be a heavy thud on the roof as Santa landed his sleigh. And we'd hear movement in the living room below us, once he'd made his way down the chimney. Of course, the following morning, there'd be signs of his visit, too. The cookie crumbs from the snack we'd left him, top of the carrots we'd left for the reindeer, and often a little note from him waited for us in the living room. My father always brought us outside before we opened presents to see the reindeer footprints and the sleigh tracks that he'd discovered in our snowy Ohio yard that morning when he woke.

But even with all of that evidence, I started doubting the reality of Santa in about the third grade, when other kids at school insisted he was imaginary. I got into heated debates defending the guy, but it seemed that by that age, most of my friends had dismissed Santa as a make-believe character.

I remember a night one December, after I had been tucked in bed and kissed goodnight, when I tossed and turned in my bed, unable to sleep as I thought about the possibility that Santa wasn't real. I started crying, confused about the reality of that man that I knew visited our house yearly - I mean, I had evidence! - and went downstairs seeking comfort from my father. He was sitting in his corner of the family room couch, and when he saw me in tears, scooped me up on his lap and held me. I choked out the question, "Is Santa real, Dad?" And his reply was perfect. "Do you believe in Santa, Suzy?" Of course, deep down, I did. "There's your answer," he said.

That satisfied me for years to come, but eventually I got to questioning Santa's existence once again. This time, I was older and wiser, and I had a plan. My friends Jenny and Danielle, who lived down the street, planned to compare the tags on their gifts from Santa with mine. If the handwriting on the tags matched - the old guy was safe. But if not, we'd simply have to stop believing. I was really anxious about our plan falling into place, and my sister, who is ten years older than me, could tell that something was going on in my little head. The night of Christmas Eve, she finally got the plan out of me, only after promising not to speak a work of it to my parents. The following morning, when the three of us girls met to compare our tags, we were amazed and, honestly, relieved, to see that the tags had identical handwriting.

I'm not a parent myself, but if I were, I can't imagine making Christmas any more special for my own kids than my mother and father made it for me. I think of my father standing in the freezing cold on Christmas Eve night, shaking bells, pounding on the roof, sawing off a dowel to make a reindeer hoof template to press into the snow, and banging on the doors of Jenny and Danielle's homes at two in the morning on Christmas day to give their parents gift tags that he'd penned in identical handwriting. And of my mother, who waited in line to get a coveted Cabbage Patch Doll which seemed to miraculously appear under the tree one year when it had been reported on the news that they were completely sold out, who wrote notes from Santa to me that made me feel like the old guy really knew who I was, who made sure we had Advent wreaths and calendars and that we participated in these meaningful rituals, and who really emphasized the true meaning of Christmas. The magic of Christmas that they created for me has been their best Christmas present ever.


This is Not the Reason for the Season, but...

Christmas preparations are finally in progress here at casa del sulu. While we're busy stringing lights and inhaling the cookies and cranberry bread that my aunt sent us, I'm keeping one eye on my etsy shop, too. Rest assured, you last minute holiday shoppers, that I put every order in the mail within 24 hours, so if you can expect speedy delivery. And a bit more etsy news: I put three pairs of earrings on a little sale, and added these:

If you're into that white square bead (heaven knows I am... can you tell I'm a wee bit obsessed with it?), you may want to check out all these previously listed pairs, too.

I'll report back soon with lots of holiday cheer. Ho, ho, ho, y'all.


Stone Soup

Thanks to the help of lots of friends and family, we had an awesome meal last night. And what's best, they had no idea that they were helping...

While wearing this apron, a gift from my adorable friend, Traci, I made this chicken recipe that's wrapped up in all sorts of family ties (if you care to read the ultra-verbose link, you'll see). I also prepared the same stuffing (to be called dressing henceforth since it wasn't really stuffed in anything) that my brother and his wife made for our Thanksgiving meal this year 'cause it was so darn good the first time around.

We served our meal atop the lovely place mats that my sister-in-law, Jennifer, made as a house warming gift, with the dressing served on the pretty vintage plates that came from the etsy shop, Thrifty Goodness, of my blog friend, Wende.

I only wish you all could have been here to share it with us.

Making a List, Checking it Twice

Two days off of work gave me just enough time to get some things in order that I'd been neglecting for a while (like my e-mail in-box, laundry, an oil change...) and I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest. It's really hard for me to think about the big things when little stuff isn't taken care of. Hence the Undone post a few days back. But now that my to-do list has significantly dwindled, I'm feeling a lot better. I took time to sift through some papers that I'd been meaning to get to, and found lists of things I'd meant to post about, so expect a bit more regularity in my blogging. I also had time to make a stop at my local bead shop, and I made a few more pairs of earrings for my etsy shop this evening. I finally figured out that several of you like sparkle at the holidays, so these designs are full of shine:

and for those of you who have asked,
a few more Hoots are in the shop, too:

Click on the photos above for direct links to their etsy shop listings. I'd say that this is the last shop update until the holidays, but I'd probably end up making myself a liar. Best wishes to you as you work on your holiday lists. See you soon, friends.


Gimme a Break

I've been seriously absent from my favorite blogs lately. And from the gym. And from the park. And from coffee shops. And from city streets. And really from most of the places that I usually like to spend my free time. I feel as though I've done little more for the past few weeks than work and make earrings. Luckily, I love doing both. But I need a break. So now that I've updated my etsy shop with lots of goodies, I'm going to kick back for a bit and give my blistered hands a break. But know that if you need to...

you can find newly-stocked recent designs:

a couple new designs with some of my favorite beads:

and a few things that shine for the holidays:

As always, click on the above photos for direct links to the earrings' etsy shop listings.

I hope you're finding time to enjoy the season. Why don't you give yourself a break, too? I'm sure you could use it. And really, you deserve it.