Friday, 27 August 2010

Friday Buoy: Putting Vintage Linens to Work

Recently I've been in a huge vintage linens phase. Jenny turned me on to them awhile ago and we've been on a streak of scoring inexpensive, cheerful finds ever since. I love them not only because I'm drawn to the colorful patterns of the 1960s and 1970s, but also because I'm all about buying things that are old and giving them new life instead of running to Target to stock up on cheap, bland products (though as a flexitarian I'll admit that's sometimes helpful too). But the more I can do to counteract a disposable culture the better in my book.

Today's inspiration round-up is all about vintage linens and some ways to put them to work. They're incredibly versatile and once you have them in the back of your mind and closet you start to think of tons of uses for them (or at least I do!). I mean, they can become helpful curtains, cushion covers, place mats, napkins, tea towels, aprons, skirts...the sky's the limit.

I hope you enjoy and this gets your creative juices flowing.

Hot Butter!
Around my house...

Pillow cases from grandma (& mirror from great-grandma!)

WA state tea towel from scottysellysfleece etsy shop
Vintage tablecloth from Jenny via Ballard Farmers Market
And some practical ideas...

Use as a beach blanket
the stir
Embellish bedding (tutorial on design*sponge)


Shower curtain (tutorial on making chicken salad)
making chicken salad
Pretty file folders (tutorial again by making chicken salad blogstress Katharine Jalaty, via design*sponge)

And more fun...
d*s best of bedrooms
Can you think of any other great uses for vintage linens? Feel free to link to great projects and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Dear 16-year-old self...

{Thanks for taking part in the letter to our 16-year-old selves simul-blog! Feel free to add you link below and then read through everyone elses. I'm nervous, but here we go...}

Dear Alisha,

Hi, I'm you. Only I'm 30. I bet you think 30 is really old and you're wondering what I look like and what I'm up to. You think 20 is really old too, but actually life after 16 is great and you've got a lot to look forward to. You're probably reading this in a coffee shop, taking a break from journaling and thinking about life -- some things never change. Right now I'm at Herkimer coffee on Phinney Ridge sitting next to Joey. I live in Ballard with my/ your/ our (?!) husband of 5 years, but I'll get to him. :)

{why yes, we are holding plastic forks!}
I've been thinking about you recently because I've just moved back to Seattle after 12 years away. I'm driving past places you used to go, only more slowly and with the healthy addition of caution. But that riskiness is one of the things I love about you young Alisha. You don't really fear anything (except mayonaise), and that's beautiful.

I could be getting some of the details wrong, but what I know about 16-year-old you is that you're a junior in high school, you've got a pager so you can conveniently pull over and find a phone booth whenever someone's trying to get in touch with you (70% of the time it's Suzanne) and you're about to go to Japan in the summer to be an exchange student. Email doesn't exist yet (in your world anyway) so it will be a long summer but your Japanese will become awesome.

 Right off the bat I've got a few quick tips for you:
  •  Despite the fact that you wish you were Asian, you're quite the opposite: tall, pale and curvy. Think twice about baby doll dresses and pig tails and dress appropriately.
  • You're going to marry an incredible, handsome British man who will knock your socks off. You'll know him when you see him. Don't rush it and don't ever settle because you are not asking for too much.
  • Go ahead and don't talk to boys at all for now. There's really no need to even smile at, communicate with or think about them and you'll save a lot of time and energy. You think it's a curse you can never get a boyfriend but actually it's grace. Be thankful and  focus on your girl friends because those are the ones you'll still be cherishing in 14 years.
  •  You're better off blonde so don't fight it.
  • High school is hard, people can be mean and after you graduate it won't matter if you don't like sports and aren't "popular". You're worried about being a dork, but in 14 years it will cool to be a nerd. Honestly, people will be clamoring to out-dork you and tell you all about how nerdy they were in high school. It's cool.
  • Technology improves so when the time comes try to come up with a better email address than Blogs are going to blow your mind...
I can think of some further helpful hints that revolve around finding balance. You don't have to do things to the extreme all the time you know. Like, sure, don't become obsessed with how you look, but don't react to that obsession by letting your appearance go in order to be pious, or as a statement. Take care of yourself, buy cute clothes, wear make-up, just don't go overboard. You have nothing to prove.

{Homecoming football game, naturally.}

You're a determined girl and when you do something you go big, which is good. But like with your appearance, don't live in extremes. Don't let your life and your actions ever be in reaction to something else. Don't be afraid of being "normal" because you crave the attention of being exceptional. I'm not saying don't be exceptional, I'm saying don't crave needing to be recognized for it. Don't be afraid to be practical -- you ARE out of the box so don't fear learning how to work within that box sometimes.

I feel like I'm telling you to be average and that's not my intention. I just think you have such high expectations for yourself, for how amazing and perfect  and unorthodox you need to be, and those expectations can be a burden. Keep being your best self but spend a little less time striving and a lot more time enjoying where you're at. That's a big secret you'll take a long time to finally hear.

{New Year's Eve in Juanita!}

I bet you're wondering where I'm at and what I've accomplished. But you know what? It doesn't matter! There's so much pressure to do all these great things by the time you're 30 but really, the good stuff takes time. You don't have to be amazing, you don't have to strive, you don't have to do anything and you will still be loved and enough.

There are a lot of don'ts for you -- I'm just trying to be helpful! Honestly though, in the midst of your mistakes you're doing a lot right too. There's something so precious and raw about you right now as you're figuring yourself and your world out. You're surrounded by some dear, dear people and you're holding onto something special, though invisible. You're craving a deep and authentic life and what I love about you -- what's made you become a 30-year-old with no regrets -- is that you actually go for it. You leave your comfort zone and you jump right in. Thank you for making choices that may be hard but are right (well, usually). Thank you for always being true to yourself and to your God.

{ sweatshirt!}

I love that you're going to Japan all by yourself. I don't think I need to tell you this but keep going. Not just to Japan, but wherever you're led. Get out of the country, ask questions, soak it up. If you've got the desire to GO, do it.

As I write to you I just want you to know how much I love you. You kind of know how much God loves you but are still a bit suspicious that you don't need to actually DO anything to earn it. You're still very suspicious about other people loving (or even liking) you just as you are. I wish you could just see how precious you are. I think if you really knew this it would help with everything else, except perhaps the email address.

OK, OK...I've got to go get on with my exciting life as a 30-year-old. Honestly, you're going to love it. Now, take one last swig of your latte and get on with your writing and dreaming. :)


I can't wait to read what other people write to their 16-year-old selves! Please add your link on the LinkyTools below.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Friday Buoy: Visual and Emotional Feast

I'm not sure if you're the type of person who cuts things out of magazines and then holds onto them for years, but I am. In 2005 I was so enamored by these photos by Tim Walker from the July Vogue UK that I ripped the pages out and squirreled them away. Every once in a while I come across them and still swoon. I'd love to do something with reams of ribbons as pictured below but have yet to come up with a practical project. I'm not sure how Dan would feel if I started draping ribbons around our bathroom.

A more recent discovery (this morning!) is this Just around midnight wallpaper from designer Elli Pop. Again, I have no practical use for it so I'll just look at it for the time being.

Here are a few other good things I've been getting stuck into:

  •  Inspiring craftivism story about quilting for a cause
  • Drops Like Stars -- an amazing coffeetable book from Rob Bell about suffering and creativity.
  • Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran. The only problem with this book about what it's like for Chinese women to have to give up their daughters for adoption is I can't stop crying when I read it. But it's worth it and I highly recommend it.
Hope you have a good weekend! What's been keeping you afloat this week?

***By the way, don't forget to write out your letters to your 16-year-old self this weekend. We'll post them on Tuesday and I'll provide a place here to link to your blog. Can't wait to see all the wisdom we come up with. :) 

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

College classes that would have been useful

I'm incredibly thankful to call Pepperdine (above) my alma mater. Studying on the shores of Southern California = not too shabby. But beachside degrees come at a cost, one I'm anxious to pay off as quickly as possible.

One of my Pepperdine friends is due to finish her loan repayments soon and I'm thrilled for her. I'd be right behind her had the British pound not conveniently tanked  the moment I started earning money in the UK! Oh well.

Lately I've been going through a box of stuff I'd stored at my parents house filled with all sorts of bounty -- photos,  the 50 folded Japanese paper cranes handcrafted for the wedding that never actually left my house and notes from college classes. Before sending them to the recycle bin I flipped through the course notes from my African Foreign Policy and International Ethics classes and thought that they were actually somewhat helpful for what I've gone on to do. Other classes, like Tudor and Stuart England and Japanese Tea Ceremony were interesting but ultimately not useful in the day-to-day.

As I was procrastinating last week I made a list of college classes that I wished I would have taken, to really milk Pepperdine for all it's worth. These are based on lessons that I've learned since leaving university that would have served me well much earlier. Most of them aren't offered in the course catalog, but I think they should be. Here goes...

College Classes That Would Have Been Useful:

    •    Time and Project Management (learned through severe trial and error)
    •    Starting Out At The Bottom of the Employment Food Chain and Working Your Way Up   Without Losing Your Mind, Morale or Vision
    •    Unorthodox Career Paths: Trying to Make Money as a Humanitarian Creative
    •    Budgeting and Paying Off Loans
    •    Resume Clinic and Interview Skills: How to Sell Yourself and Still Like Yourself
    •    Patience
    •    How to Change a Tire and Look After Your Car (still learning)
    •    How to Create a Website and Basic html

I would also have ideally liked a minor in handicrafts (crochet, macrame, that sort of thing) and perhaps an emphasis in the Adobe creative suite, but I wouldn't have gone to summer school for it.

A great text for any of these classes could have been How to Be Useful, a book I saw in New Zealand and can't wait to read.

Were any of the classes you took in college or high school useful? What classes do you wish you could have taken, real or otherwise?

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Simul-blog: Note to (16-year-old) self

Me and Joey (& Ashley) in 1997. Sweet 16!

I straight up copy and pasted this from Joey's blog, but she explained it so well.Thanks!

Joey and I have decided to do a simul-blog posting (in which we simultaneously post about the same topic) and we want to invite YOU to participate with us.

Here's how it works:
  • The topic is "A letter to my 16-year-old self," inspired by a post I saw here.
  • Write your blog post on this topic. This can be funny, serious or whatever suits you.
  • Simultaneously post with us on Tuesday, August 24.
We look forward to reading your letters! Leave a comment to let us know if you're considering joining us. We're so curious. :)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Friday Buoy: 6 cheers for the Pacific Northwest

{Picnic on Bainbridge Island}

While living abroad as an American (not cool), my one saving grace was being from Seattle (very cool). In general, Brits like Seattle about as much as they like San Fransisco and nearly as much as Canada, and those places are frankly untouchable. Seattle's got a strong international reputation, and not without good reason.

I've got to admit I'm full of raging regional pride. I really do love the Pacific Northwest, and now that I'm back after a 12 year hiatus I love it even more.

For today's buoy, to top off a lovely week in WA, I thought I'd share all the reasons I could think of about why I love Seattle. Here goes...

  • Trees! I love trees and Seattle's got so many. The first month back I was constantly in awe of all those big tall green things everywhere. They don't call us the Evergreen State for nothing I guess. We've even got a rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula, how awesome is that. Heather at In Search of Squid calls Seattle a city in a forest and that image makes me happy. 
{Can't get much more Seattle than this.}
  • Youth. I'm not talking about young people, I'm talking about the age of Seattle as an incorporated city: a measly 141 years old. Old cities may look down on us, but I like the energy that comes without age and tradition. There's a sense of wanting to be progressive and find the next big thing that excites me.
  • Edumacation. Apparently Seattle is the most educated city in the country, with the highest percentage of college grads. I'm not braggin' but...

  • Local wineries. I didn't realize this but I seem to have grown up 5 minutes from one of America's largest wine producing regions: Woodinville. I knew there were wineries around but I didn't realize just how much juice they were turning out. Washington is the second largest wine producing state, second only to the mighty California. Who knew?
  • Chilled out-ness. Just the other day Dan remarked how not stereotypical-American Seattle is. Don't get me started on stereotypes but it's true. People are just pretty laid back here, not at all in your face with enthusiasm, but still nice and civil. I've heard mid-Westerners and Southerners call it the Seattle freeze, but I think we've got a nice balance of friendliness without being annoying.
{Incredibly helpful}
  • Underrated. Growing up I always thought Washington was boring and dreamed of living in a cool place like Florida, California or Hawaii -- the states that got to be pink and purple on the maps. Washington was always orange, so not cool. But now I like that not everyone has gone on vacation here, it's kind of a secret gem just waiting to be explored.
This list isn't at all comprehensive (I didn't even mention the word coffee), I just like giving my soggy city some time in the sun. Probably the main reason I love Seattle is that it's where I'm from and I have roots here. You're supposed to be biased about your home city, right?

How about some other regional pride shout outs? Why do you love the place you're from, or where you're living now?

{Heart in Washington, The Uptight Seattleite}

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ten on ten photos for August 2010

For my second 10 on 10 I charged my camera last night to prepare. Then I went and left it in the car while it was in the car shop getting checked out for the afternoon, so you're missing out on a large chunk of change here - sorry. But at least I did manage to post ten pictures this time. The more observant of you noticed I shorted you one in July. Again, sorry.

When we weren't waiting for the car I spent a lot of time in the house opening this pandora's box of randomness that has been sitting at my parents house since I moved to England five years ago. I found violin music from high school, baseball card magazines from elementary school, notes from senior year of college and an exotic shoe collection I'd completely forgotten about. I mean, who really needs kimono geta from Japan, hand painted wooden flip flops from Vietnam and impulse-buy clogs from Sweden.In the evening the Roddy's 3 came over for ramen fun and frolics.

Check out other 10 on 10 photo journal entries at the official website and why not join in the fun next month on September 10th (which also happens to somebodies' 5 year anniversary!).

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

How to return to your comfort zone

I hear this command a lot, especially in Christian circles: "Get out of your comfort zone." It's a good thing to hear when you're comfortable, but for people like me (who actually jump out) it can be annoying. In England when I'd hear a message exhorting us to step outside of our comfort zones I always wanted to raise my hand and shout, ""I am well and truly out. Now what?" I found that while there was a ton of resources to help people get to the edge of the diving board of faith, there wasn't much for the ones who actually jumped and found themselves flailing in the deep end. What I really wanted was acknowledgement that being uncomfortable is hard and not always very exciting.

In England, though it's a lovely place, I was uncomfortable much of the time. Especially at first. I was uncomfortable on our severe budget and not being able to buy big and wonderful things for cheap (though possibly unethically produced?!) at Target or Trader Joes or Costco like I did back home. It was uncomfortable not having a clothes dryer or a washing machine and paying $1400 for a 200 foot damp Victorian studio (ouch!). But deeper than this I struggled with being out of my element. It's difficult being a bold, direct, smiley and emotive American in a culture that is mildly suspicious of all of the above.

So...blah, blah, blah, England was outside of my comfort zone. BUT...while outside it wasn't ALL irritability and defensiveness. In almost direct correlation to how stretched I was I grew in other ways and in areas I was weak, like simplicity, contentment, quietness, patience and generally being a mores stripped down version of myself. It was all very rich and very good.

So if learning to thrive outside my comfort zone was a theme for four years, right now, back in Seattle and in a place where I'm enjoying familiarity once again, my question is how do I come back?

I'm so glad to be comfortable again, but the challenge now is not losing what I gained out of my comfort zone. I'm not desperately worried about it, but it's something I think about when I'm driving down roads I drove down 15 years ago as a high school student. There's something about being home that feels like I never left and I love this feeling, but I've got to remember that I did leave and what I learned.

I've only been back two months so I'm a work in progress, but here's what's helped me come back into my comfort zone so far: intentionality and accountability. It's a choice to remember not only where I've come from but also where I've been and who I've become. It helps to have Dan here too, my partner for the journey who reminds me (and vice versa) of the things from England we want to retain.

How about you? How have you re-entered a comfort zone after a time away? How did you hold onto what you'd learned while appreciating what you had once again?

{Photo by Cocktail_Hour from flickr}

Friday, 6 August 2010

Friday Buoy: Nesting instincts

It's been about a week since we moved into our cozy little Alpine haven. Well, the alpine bit is a work in progress, but we're getting there. The other day when little 20-month-Wes stopped by (with mom Jenny, of course) he looked up at the wood paneling, pointed and said, "Alpine." Before I was too impressed Jenny translated the word to airplane, and low and behold, we have a plaque of an airplane on our wooden wall. So close.

For this buoy I wanted to give you a tiny peep hole into our place...

For some reason I love the color combo of this orange and light coral. And their scent is called 'melontini'. Excellent! We didn't have candle holders so I whipped out my paper collection and let squares of vintage National Geographic and a print I got in Paris in 2000 do the work of keeping wax off our coffeetable. 

Paint-by-number mountainscape courtesy of Joey. Vintage sugar bowl from Value Village and that wood paneling I've been going on about. It drives me crazy in a good way.

The room that clinched it! How can you not adore 1970's autumnal wallpaper scenes? I've always secretly wanted this. And the clawfoot tub! Nevermind that we have no freestanding shower.

Our fairy lit ficus and futon. The futon cover is pretty alpine-esque, right? I think so.

We cleansed our library before we left London (not by choice, but necessity!) and are starting once again with a nascent collection, including library books. Dan got this vintage ceramic piece for me from a charity shop in Auckland. I haven't figured out it's purpose, but for now all it's got to do is look good.
The cozy corner, with jade plant courtesy of Jenny, a glass sugar bowl from Value Village and a lamp courtesy of Sara. Most of our homewares are from Sara actually. It was incredibly fortunate of us to move to Seattle at the same time my good friend was getting married and moving into a her husband's fully furnished house. Good move and we are so, so thankful.

So that's the little peek. I didn't capture this photographically but we live on the side of a house with a sweet couple as landlords. They are major gardeners as well, so we open our door and voile, a jungle of tomato plants. A few days ago I was delivered a small vase of sweet peas in the morning. Now this is the way to garden -- all the benefits, none of the work.

Overall, we love being in Seattle. Specifically, we love living in Ballard. It's the place my parents first lived when they got married and now it's our first Seattle home. It's very walkable and has tons of great coffeeshops for me to invade and set up my workstation at. Home sweet home.

I hope you have a good Friday and a lovely weekend! Are you up to anything fun?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Flexitarianism and living between extremes

Sometimes I crave a thick, juicy steak. But I'm a vegetarian, so what do I do? I'll tell you what I do, I go out and eat a steak. And when I say eat I mean I totally savour that piece of cow flesh. That's how I roll as lax vegetarian, I eat meat when I want & still call myself a veggie.

Several times in the past people have challenged me on my vegetarian status as I've been mid-bite into a sneaky piece of Dan's hamburger. It used to make me defensive. Who sets the rules for dietetic self-labeling anyway?! Surely I can call myself whatever I want. And eating meat less than a handful of times per year has got to count for something. Plus, calling myself a vegetarian is more socially acceptable than saying at a dinner party, “I'm really picky about meat. Sorry.”

These days I call myself a flexitarian, meaning that I'm mostly veggie but I'm not going to deny myself some beef if my body is telling me to go for it. I like this attitude towards food because it flies in the face of extremist tendencies I'm prone to. I'm the type of person who, when I do something, I go all out, sometimes to my own detriment. Being flexitarian gives me freedom to be what I really want to be: an occasional meat eater.

Dan and I have been applying our newly-celebrated flexitarianism to other aspects of our life beyond the dinner table. When we first arrived in the States we had the idea to go completely carless in Seattle. We were going to milk the bus system for all it was worth and say no to cars. This plan lasted for one day, the day it took us an hour and a half to get a few miles east to Green Lake. We then decided that we definitely needed a car in Seattle, at least where we lived, but we could still take steps to not be completely car-dependent. For example, we'd only get one car. And if we were going downtown or somewhere convenient we'd try taking the bus.

In pursuing a simple life, flexitarianism is a huge thing for me. It can be overwhelming trying to scale back and live simply and to be honest, it's difficult to do it all at once. That's why I'm all about gateway actions that admit going cold-turkey is not sustainable but don't completely throw the intention out the window. I feel this way about a lot of good things that come at a cost: eating organic, living in community (why not just live down the street from good friends instead of sharing a house? It's great!) and even decorating a new apartment exactly the way I want it.

I've definitely chilled out about being an extremist black and white perfectionist in the last decade, and it's a huge change for the better -- so much less stress and guilt, greater contentment and satisfaction. And the occasional steak. Everybody wins.

Any other practicing flexitarians out there, with meat and beyond? Do spill...

P.S. We're all moved in to our new place and I love it! Will show some pics on Friday.

{Crocheted t-bone steak by deba822 on etsy}
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