Takoma Park, Here I Come!

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photo 1I haven’t written for a while–sorry Mom (and my other loyal followers).  I have been busy in the creative department, however, and will share a few of those activities in subsequent posts.  My immediate artsy project, however, has been getting ready for the craftylawyer’s debut at the Grant Avenue Vintage Market  in Takoma Park, Maryland.   It’s a fun group of vendors and artisans who sell cool old stuff–some of it repurposed, some of it waiting for you to turn into something fun.  This will be my first market of this kind–requiring my own little vendor tent, a mobile credit card reader, and a receipt book!  I’ve sold some things on Etsy and at school craft fairs, but there remains a strong element of angst–will people like my stuff?  And if they don’t, does that mean they don’t like me?   Of course not, but still, putting my little pieces of whimsy out there is like putting a bit of my own humor and personality out there.  I find that my little artsy vignettes really are like sharing a piece of myself.  So, what parts of me will I be putting on display?  photo 2  photo 4  Lots and lots of soldered charms, featuring images from 1920s to 1960s textbooks, old magazines, post cards, and vintage photos.

vintage halloween from old textbooksSome really fun pieces made from Crackerjack prizes–this fan features a flower spinning top, an old barrette, and vintage costume jewelry pearls.  Lots more fun and quirky combinations as well.

Experiments in rulers and resin.  These pieces are hard to make–very time consuming.  I cut up old rulers, solder the pieces together, coat them with non-toxic resin, and then enhance them with old charms and jewels, odds and ends of chain and whatever else strikes my fancy.photo 5

So please come visit me on Sunday, September 14–or visit craftylawyer27 at Etsy.com to see other creations.  Come find some whimsy you can wear!

Three Hours on Boston’s Newbury Street

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Three Hours on Boston’s Newbury Street

 

 

Work took me to Boston for a conference last week. And I know that when in Boston, one should walk the Freedom Trail, absorbing the history of our nation. But I had little free time—random hours here and there between meetings and events and other duties—leading me to look close to my hotel for inspiration. Turns out that my hotel, connected to expensive shopping malls and near the convention center, was only a few blocks away from Newbury Street,  a beloved Boston destination for quirky shopping. As I discovered, it can also be expensive shopping, but there are treasures on this street for all tastes. And because it was so close to my hotel, I could run over for an hour here or there, tackling a different block each time. The results of my exploration are below—the time estimate is probably on the low side, but come on, if you really have more than three hours at a time, you should probably be doing something patriotic, no?

Go! Go! Etsy sellers.  Pop up shops give you a chance to hold etsy in your hand

Go! Go! Etsy sellers. Pop up shops give you a chance to hold etsy in your hand

 

This all started because I heard that an Etsy Pop-up shop was open on Newbury Street. As an Etsian (don’t forget to visit my shop, craftylawyer27 on etsy.com) I had to check out a brick and mortar shop devoted to artists and crafters. The  Newbury Handmade Market, open til August   3, 2014, was filled with handmade jewelry, photography, painted glass, beautiful scarves and more. As much as I love Etsy, the chance to touch items and talk to their makers  in person was too much fun to pass up.   On a whim, I stopped at a nearby salon, Viselli Santoro,  to see if I could get my hair cut before my organization’s big fundraiser—nothing that evening, but one early morning appointment the next day.

my guide to Boston

Colleen, one of my guides to Boston

Thus, I came back to Newbury Street for a second time, getting a great cut and lots of advice from Colleen Coen Finley,   a native Bostonian.  Colleen has lived all over the city, makes her own furniture, and collects skeleton keys. She gave me a bit of background on Newbury Street, sharing concerns I heard from several independent merchants. Like so many popular places, their beloved Newbury Street , with its 1880 and 1890 brownstones, had changed over the years, with more major chains and high end stores snapping up the spaces once occupied by one of a kind boutiques. Newbury Street is a highly desirable Boston address—back in the day it was one of the THE places to live in Boston–and that prestige continues.  All of this makes it  harder for the smaller shops  to keep their doors open.

Fortunately, one of those unique shope, Lunarik Fashions, was near the salon. It’s a dangerous place, filled with hundreds of handcrafted bags.   Let’s just say that the longer I talked to the owner, Rik, and petted his beautiful, tempting bags, causing me to swear off shopping for the rest of the summer!beautiful dog, the more I realized I probably wasn’t going to leave the store without a new bag. Turquoise leather tote? HOBO (one of my favorite brands) shopping bag, gorgeous small bag with the cottonwood textile pattern? In the end I chose a beautiful South End bag, made by an artist whom Rick has worked with for years—who does great shapes and unusual color blocked patterns, marching to her own design drummer. Rik promised me that no one in Washington was likely to have this bag—and that people would stop me on the street when they saw it. While the latter hasn’t happened, within days of purchasing it a savvy Bostonian said—”That’s a South End bag—you definitely found something they won’t have back home.” So trust in the Rik, I think.

Anyway, another wonderful, gorgeous place on the street is Prem-la, a lovely collection of Nepalese wares. Pralhad K.C., who owns the store, has held court in half a dozen Newbury St addresses since he bought the business as a college student in the 1980s. He, too, bemoans the changes on the street that make it tougher and tougher for independent businessmen like him to keep his doors open. Fortunately for shoppers, Prem-la is a labor of love. Go in there and be transported to Nepal—bring home some prayer flags or beads or the gorgeous silver pendants that he carries. He warned that these elaborate pendants and prayer scroll necklaces are also becoming a lost art, so don’t miss the chance to talk to someone who is happy to share his history and culture with you.

Be transported to the Himalayas and support craftsmen and culture of Nepal

Be transported to the Himalayas and support craftsmen and culture of Nepal

No matter how long you may be on the street, you are definitely going to need yummy treats. I was struck by the pretty cupcakes at Sweet, photo 5but even more by their ingenious frosting shots. As  someone who believes cake is a vehicle for frosting, I was lucky that the sales clerk had not yet set cups of frosting out for sale.That's right--frosting shots.  Who needs jello? I can handle cake or pie for breakfast, but a pure infusion of butter and powdered sugar is too much for even me! On an afternoon visit the next day I succumbed to a new pizza place–Scissors and Pie, where they cut their Roman pizza with big kitchen shears. The tremendous advantage of this method is that you can customize your meal, getting a few small squares  of different flavors. My pick: prosciutto, mozzarella, potato, and rosemary.  Also, try the iced tea made from cocoa husks at Hotel Chocolat or anything from the French pastry shop, Patisserie on Newbury.

 

Parisian macarons at Patisserie

Parisian macarons at Patisserie

potatoes, bread, cheese, mozerella, and pork--this Scissors pizza is a cut above the rest!photo 2

 

 

 

 

A few other exciting places to visit: The extremely sugary and sparkly Robin’photo 1s candy store that sells childhood favorites, sophisticated treats, and gigantic gummy candies.   Knowing just how tempting their sweets can be, every

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You will need one of Robin’s toothbrushes after working your way through this lot!

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The ceiling is as colorful as the candy in Robin’s

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Amy models her bargain

purchase comes with a tiny Robin’s toothbrush. The Second Time Around (reminds me of the theme song for Orange is the New Black) (STA) consignment stores. Several locations on the street. Yes, a chain, but good deals if you have money to burn or are willing to dig. One of the stores has a $35 floor, where I picked up a gauzy black vest  for $5. My colleague, Amy, on her own trek to Newbury Street scored a Coach bag for $35.  I remain jealous, even if I do have my cool, nobody- else- in -Washington -has -my -bag, bag.  And I probably could have spent three hours alone in the Society of Arts and Crafts store.  Birch bark bathed in copper wall hangings blew me away, and I immediately embraced their motto–“Keep Calm and Buy Craft.”  (My husband would probably say I invented that motto).at the Society of Arts and Craftsphoto 1_2

 

Maybe the best surprise of all , if you head to the beginning of the street (I started in the middle), is that you can also get in a beautiful one-two punch of history. First, stop in to visit the exquisite Emmanuel Church, a progressive, forward thinking church from the time of its founding in the 1860s — with interiors designed by the Tiffany Studios. A gorgeous, gigantic Tiffany pendant lamp, multiple stained glass windows, wood carvings and mosaics are all inside. The church is said to be the largest ecclesiastical collection of Tiffany and a reminder of Boston’s place in high society.

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Finally, some history! Tiffany pendant lamp at Emmanuel Church

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Georgeous day in the Public Gardens

A few steps away lies the Boston Public Garden, a beautiful Victorian oasis, even if you can see the skyscrapers from virtually every direction. The gardens, home to the ducks of Make Way for Ducklings (or their great great great great great great you get it, grand kids)

aaaaaaawwwwwwww!

aaaaaaawwwwwwww!

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also house one of the cheapest and best forms of entertainment in Boston—the Swan Boatsphoto 3 photo 1 photo 2  Take a ride on these people powered giant paddle boats, watch the ducklings and the swans, and drink in Boston. A great way to end my time on Newbury Street. And if I had a little more time, I could have even walked the Freedom Trail, which starts on the other side of the garden. Or, I could have headed the other way and tackled the remaining blocks of Newbury Street. Next time I am in Boston, I’ll let you know what I decide!

 

 

One of the park swans checks out the competition!

One of the park swans checks out the competition!

 

 

Getting Crafty in Rochester

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Getting Crafty in Rochester

It’s Day 12 of our month at Mayo Clinic and we are constantly finding surprises in the Rochester area.  A great treat this week was a local arts fair–one block long–called Art on the Avenue (Fourth Avenue Southeast ).  Since its inception a few years ago, the art fair has moved from block to block of Fourth Avenue.  Every year, a different neighbor sponsors the event and hosts a sculpture created by a local artist that was specially designed for the event.   There are bandsImage

and food and local artists–some established and some just getting started.   Here are some of our cool finds.

Yum–beautifully crafted macarons and Mondrian cake–pound cake cut and colored to represent a Mondrian painting.  Almost too pretty too eat

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Sharon Su of Persimmon Bakeshop stands by her yummy wares

from Persimmon Bakeshop.

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Yard Art Flower Plates by Kim Phelps

Glass flowers.   Kim Phelps, the creator of these jewel like flowers says she gathers old glass dishes from garage sales and such and then puts together many flowers at a time, moving dishes around until she finds the right fit, coming back at a later time to glue the pieces together, add glass baubles and finish her creations

Can you imagine how pretty these flowers would look in the snow?  And check out the cheerful purple house in the backgroundImage

Another great discovery, the creativity of Paul Bennett, whose Dwell Local line of upcycled, reclaimed, re-invented thrift store items  and wall hangings is just too much fun.  I’m particularly taken with his button flower signs and the terrific yardstick tables.  I had to keep reminding myself that we couldn’t haul furniture back to DC–otherwise, I might have snagged a table.Image

 

At the heart of all this creativity is Concerned Citizens for A Creative Community, or  C4 cooperative, a local group devoted to making space for art in Rochester.  They offer all kinds of activities and display space, helping to nurture a creative spirit for Rochester residents–and for those of us who are calling the place home for even a little bit.  Image

I will confess, however, that one of the best things about the fair, besides seeing my daughter out and about, was that people noticed my jewelry.  You feel validated when people who actually have booths at an ART FAIR say, “Oh, I love your necklace.”  There is something that makes you feel like part of the community–and the artists of Rochester are very welcoming, indeed.

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I wore “She said good” and the happy homemaker “Amazing Self” to the fair that day. And they liked it, they liked it!!!!

Hotel, Motel, Crafty Girl

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Hotel, Motel, Crafty Girl

Well, we have been in Rochester for five days now, arriving on the train Monday night.  We spent Tuesday getting oriented, ordering groceries, unpacking, etc and taking a test run to the Mayo Clinic.  The next three days whirred by, as Rebecca’s Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program (PPRC) at Mayo is super intense and stresses not only lots of work but lots of socializing.  They want the kids to get  back to all aspects of their life before pain, so virtually every day there is some kind of activity, often planned by the kids.  We’ve been bowling and had dinner out (kids and parents separately) and today there is archery.   So much more activity–and energy–than Rebecca has seen in months.  Not sure what the magic is, but fingers crossed it will keep working.

Now, on to the crafty part of this blog.  We are in one of the many extended stay hotels that ring Rochester.  Hardly surprising, given  the Mayo Clinic’s reputation for cutting edge medical treatments.  We have a two bedroom with a little kitchen and I knew from the beginning that we would need to make it our own and quickly if we were going to feel at home.   So, how do you convert a sterile (clean, comfortable but no  frills, pictures or knick knacks)hotel room  into a home away from home?  Here are my tips:

1.  Remember the advice for business travelers:  I’ve seen plenty of articles over the years recommending ways to personalize a hotel room.  Bring a few pictures from home, maybe a candle or scented sachet, some small trinket that makes you smile.  I tucked into our luggage a couple of pictures we love, three little jade figures from Hong Kong that represent our family, a silly poster that says “Be Nice or Leave” and some cards, including one that said “Keep Calm and Carry On,” one of Rebecca’s favorite expressions.  Michael added the Xbox to our carryon luggage!.  I also tucked the whole basket of pills we take into the food bag, so that we would be able to keep things organized and tidy (and it is a cheery red!).

2.  Consider shipping a few things, too:  Since we are here for a month (and living in Minnesota!) we knew we would probably need more than we could reasonably stick in our luggage. IMG_3458 And given that we were shipping some sweaters and other bulky items, it only made sense to tuck in a few extra knickknacks, a favorite afghan, a stuffed animal, and our handblender.  I added a tiny copper vase Michael and I picked up on vacation one year, some shutterfly photobooks, and Rebecca’s favorite pillow. Oh, and did I mention I shipped jewelry and craft supplies–but of course.

3.  Repurpose/recycle:  My dad used to make storage bins for virtually everything out of 2 liter soda bottles.  I copied that idea here, sort of, cleaning out a small  baked beans can, wrapping it with washi tape (from the Target across the street) and using it for a pencil holder.

Tin can wrapped with colorful tape.  Eco-simple!

Tin can wrapped with colorful tape. Eco-simple!

I also cut down a 12 pack soda box to make two small catch alls.  But my big crafty moment, thus far, occurred when I made several paper bag storage bins.   I saw this idea recently and it struck me as a good way to use some of the twenty or so Hy-Vee grocery bags we suddenly had in our small hotel room.  I made one bin out of a double bag and one out of a single bag.

Wouldn't Martha be proud?

Wouldn’t Martha be proud?

The double bag is stronger but harder to work with.  Anyway, here are the steps.  Cut the garbage bag down the four  folded sides until you reach the last horizontal fold (about 2/3 of the way down.  Carefully fold over the long flaps, securing them on the bottom of the bag.  Then, wrap duct tape from one end of the short side of the bag to the other (so that bottom is covered).  Finally wrap duct tape around the full bag.   Finish the top with washi tape or other brightly colored tape.   Very sturdy and good for corralling papers and other small objects.

Paper bags, duct tape, washi tape--a sturdy impromptu catchall is born

Paper bags, duct tape, washi tape–a sturdy impromptu catchall is born

Yes, yes, you can go to Target and buy containers (and I ended up doing that, too), but I won’t feel guilty about tossing these and they made me feel like I was doing something creative even in the midst of corporate sameness.

4.  Visit  grocery stores, local markets and resale shops:  When we ordered groceries,  I included two pots of African violets.  They will likely stay alive at least for the whole month, are colorful, and can easily be given away when we leave.  Today, we went to a farmer’s market and picked up jam and bread and locally sourced meats ( we are roasting a half turkey to have around for the week).  For Mother’s Day, I get to go to a flea market that happens to be taking place tomorrow.  I’m almost certain to find something fun and silly to add to our temporary home.

5.  When you run to Target for the inevitable things you forgot, look for colorful packaging and other “extras:”  A clear shoebox is nice, but one with a turquoise lid adds a pop of color in the bathroom.  Three bottles of sparkling cider suddenly become a display in the kitchen.  The tissue paper around my African violets will become part of the gift wrap for Rebecca’s  birthday presents next week.

6.  Don’t forget the essentials: Pack a pair of scissors, tape, and glue at a minimum.  I purchased duct tape and washi tape at Target, but probably would have packed them if I had more room.    And leave room, of course, for the jewelry supplies or whatever your crafting heart requires.  I will report on those craft essentials in a separate post, but suffice it to say I brought more than Michael or Rebecca thought prudent and far less than I wanted to bring.

 

 

April is over–thank heaven!

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Despite the weekly reminders from the automated WordPress tickler, I didn’t write anything in April.  it was a busy, crazy, month, with some great visits from family, torrential showers, beautiful spring days, and bittersweet memories.  Rebecca had some very good days and a few really bad ones.    We marked the anniversary of my dad’s passing quietly, sending some prayers and good thoughts his way on April 27.  I’ve been thinking recently of  his grin–a particularly robust smile that filled his face whenever one of his children came home.  He also used it whenever he was making up a bit of doggerel to sing to a child or grandchild (see below). I saw that grin plenty of times upon returning from college, and graduate school, and work ,and I only wish now i could see it one more time.  Instead, I like to look for proof of his smile in the universe.

 I was thinking of all of this after getting off the shuttle bus in Rochester, Minnesota today.  We are here to attend a program for Rebecca at the Mayo Clinic and the shuttle station is as busy as any railway depot.  My shuttle was packed with people being dropped off at various hotels.  it was a noisy shuttle, not the somber ride I expected at all–it was filled with laughter.  I was texting a friend who reminded me that I was back in the Midwest, after all, but I also think that the people on that shuttle were flush with the idea that they were taking charge of their illness.  Going to Mayo is a big deal, after all, and you do immediately feel like people are kind and taking care of you.  So, I’m glad to be rid of April, hoping that May brings good things, and on the hunt for my dad’s smile here in Rochester.  I will keep you posted. Image

No Peeping !

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ImageAnother Washington Post Peeps Diorama contest deadline has passed and yet again there is no entry from the Crafty Lawyer.  The contest, which challenges Post readers to build a shadowbox scene with marshmallow Peeps, is a sure sign of spring in D.C. Hundreds of people submit pictures of their Peeps pursuits–corny, clever, and sometimes downright cool. Points are awarded for creativity, artistic merit, and punnery.  Yes, the more your Peeps story represents a play on words (like Rest In Peeps: Farewell to the Twinkie or   NightPeeps ) the higher you rate in the eyes of the judges.  Every year I think to myself that this will be the year I do my own Peeps magic.  It’s not the pun or the play on words that stops me in my tracks (we had a great idea this year but I must keep it secret in case we try again next year).  No, I have found that what really separates the women from the chicks, so to speak, is the ability to dress a Peep.  Alas, crafting with Peeps is HARD.

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In case you are intrigued, I want to share a few things I learned this year about working with Peeps.  I offer these in the spirit of encouraging you to consider making your own Peeps scenario, whether for the contest or just for your dinner table.

1.  Start early. Because Peeps are now sold all year long, you can find peeps in many colors and shapes throughout the year.  If you think you want to try the Peeps challenge, pick up some Peeps at Halloween, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day.  Having a variety of colors and shapes gives you more possibilities for making Peeps figurines but it also lets you make other parts of your display out of marshmallows as well.   For instance, at Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot in the District they have a year round display of pink Peeps clustered on branches to look like cherry blossoms.Image

2.   Peeps are deceptively hard to work with.  The little chicks, in particular, don’t particularly take to being dressed up.  They have no waist, you see, so trying to put a fairy tutu on them is, well, awkward.  Sometimes people make it easy on themselves and just cut the heads off and stick them on other figurines, but adapting to the shape of the Peep is part of the challenge.   We found that the rabbits are slightly easier to use as stand-ins for people, but if you want arms, you will have to add them separately.

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3.   Stale peeps are a good thing.   Turns out that the less sticky the peep, the easier it is to cut it up and manipulate it.  In fact, you can actually do some pretty good sculpting once the super sticky parts have been beaten into submission.   After much pummeling, we turned the bottom of a chick into some fairy wings.

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4.  There will be carnage.  We went through a number of peeps to produce just three figurines–and several ended up looking more like something from a horror show than a delightful diorama.  Be strong.

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5. Schedule plenty of time.  After hours and days of work we still had only three figures and no background.  We gave up–what can I say?

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6. When you give up, decorate with Peeps.  I recently made a birthday cake for crafty friend Jennifer with cream cheese frosting.  It was pretty but didn’t scream spring like I had hoped.  Adding a few bright colored peeps to the top changed the look completely.

peepscake

7.  Don’t eat the peeps–unless they are dipped in chocolate.  My favorite way to use Peeps is to see them coated in beautiful milk chocolate from my favorite D.C. candy store, Kron Chocolatier.  The best thing about this crafty use of Peeps–someone else did the dirty work!!

chocolatebunny

 

Pi Day (revisited) Search and Find

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Pi Day (revisited) Search and Find

Well I got so excited about Pi Day after blogging about it on March 14 that we ended up with quite a Pi Day celebration.  I decided to push the limits of Pi related foods, so here’s a picture of our meal–how many Pi references can you find?

PI Day Search and Find--I admit that some of these foods stretch the limits and the imagination on the concept of PI

PI Day Search and Find–I admit that some of these foods stretch the limits and the imagination on the concept of PI

Did you find  seven?    From the left PIneapple Salsa, PIneapple, UnsPIced Cider, Salmon (ie PIsces), sPInach, Oatmeal Pi(e), PInot Noir.    Not pictured, Rebecca’s Star PI(es)–she filled the bottoms of star shaped foil cup with pie crust, cinnamon, sugar, and butter–and then put vanilla yogurt on top.

My favorite thing, though, was our little impromptu place cards listing 3.14 things we liked about each other

Easy to make.  Everyone should have a set of rubber stamp letters and number for impromptu signs.  I just happened to have some place cards but you could fold over any paper or cardstock to make your own placecards.  Besides, the real sentiment is inside

Easy to make. Everyone should have a set of rubber stamp letters and number for impromptu signs. I just happened to have some place cards but you could fold over any paper or cardstock to make your own placecards. Besides, the real sentiment is inside

On to next year–super PI day: 3.14.15